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Habitat Man (Contemporary Fiction, Writing Award 2021)
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I have finished Habitat Man which is submitted, and this is the first chapter of the sequel. Tim (aka Habitat Man) and Lori have finally got together, but how are they going to manage now they’ve found out that Lori’s ex Dan is Tim’s long lost not-quite son who he hasn’t seen for 30 years?

A bubble of pheromones, touch, taste, sight and smell, languorous sensuality and building excitement, gentleness then passion, our second kiss. We stood in Lori’s kitchen, immersed in each other, chest against chest, tongue probing tongue, her bedroom just a decision away. Our mouths parted for a moment. I nuzzled her neck, needing to smell the skin, to inhale it. I whispered my longing in her ear, how much I hungered for her, had been wanting her for months. Lori’s hands crept inside my shirt to explore my belly, flatter than it used to be, then up to the hair on my chest, creating a temporary barrier between our pressed-together bodies.

Our eyes met and my heart swooped and soared like an eagle in a storm. Flecks of gold and nut brown, pupils dilated, my longing reflected back at me. I gazed into their dark depths and knew she saw a man helplessly in love, utterly captivated, enraptured, absorbed by her.

Playing safe for the moment, I ran my hands up her back. She caressed my neck sending shivers down my spine. Her hand slipped down to check out my glutes. Encouraged, my hands roamed more freely, exploring her rounded curves, moving down from her hips to her delectable bottom. I used both hands, one cheek each, feeling the perfect mix of softness and firmness, but it wasn’t enough, I needed to feel her in the flesh. The pulsing deep in my groin became more urgent. She must feel me stirring. I released my grip in case she wanted to push me away but she pulled me closer. She let out an inadvertent groan, which lit a fire in my blood and I pressed myself against her. She melted further into my arms.

A slight cough penetrated our awareness. We looked up in shock. Six foot two inches of Lori’s ex-husband Dan stood there staring at us, next to their fifteen-year-old son Ethan, to whom Dan had given the task of preventing such shenanigans.

‘Haven’t you left yet?’ Lori demanded.

I scanned back over my recent memory, separating what they’d have seen from what I’d been planning. It could have been worse.

‘If you two don’t get out of my house right now you’ll be witnessing a shag on the kitchen table,’ she continued.

I sucked in my breath. This muscled, tattooed, thirty-four-year-old ex-husband of Lori’s also happened to be my not-quite long-lost son Dan I’d rediscovered just ten minutes ago. The boy who I thought I’d fathered at the age of sixteen but then turned out to be someone else’s. That hadn’t stopped me from thinking about him for the last thirty years wondering how he was and where he was. And how he was at this moment was utterly appalled, and where he was, was standing five feet away in Lori’s kitchen. He put his arm protectively around Ethan as if to shield him from the horrors he’d just seen. My urge to ingratiate was strong.

‘Bit harsh?’ I murmured tentatively to her.

‘It’s been five years,’ she growled and pulled me closer, pressing herself against me. Desire for Lori coursed again through my veins and all I could manage was an apologetic nod towards the door. The moment we heard the door shut behind them, Lori’s hand moved down to my belt, and then further down and all thoughts of ex-husbands, sons and not-quite sons were driven from my head.

‘Come on,’ Lori took me by the hand and led me up the stairs. When we reached the bedroom, her bravado seemed to fade.

‘By the way, I want the right to back out in case the chemistry isn’t there.’

‘Of course,’ I agreed. ‘Me too.’

‘It’s just once with another guy, when we got close he didn’t smell right.’

‘No, no, I understand, fair enough.’

‘Although it might have been fear.’

‘Ethan and his air rifle?’

She nodded.

I suddenly worried. I’d prepared for this moment, washed my hair twice and used lots of anti-perspirant but it may have worn off.

‘I’ll just nip into the bathroom for a quick wash in case.’

‘No, you already smell a bit shampooey, I need the real you.’ She led me into the bedroom and we fell onto the bed. She pulled my shirt off and buried her head in my chest, smelling the hair that ran across my nipples to my under arms. She took a deep sniff.

‘Oh yes!’


‘Oh, that releases something primal in me.’ She pulled her shirt over her head

revealing her delectable flesh. I got a quick flash of her maroon lacy bra before she pulled it off. I loved her even more for sparing me the embarrassing fumble with the bra clasp. I took a brief moment to savour the sight, before taking her in my arms to enjoy the feel of her naked breasts against my bare chest. I kissed her again deep and hard, pressing my erection against her groin, wondering how fast to go.

I’d prepared for the evening by reading sexy bits in women’s novels. It struck me that they’d be the best indicator of what women secretly desired in bed. Usually I relied on instinct but it had been several years now. My best friend Jo had offered me some lesbian porn, but although I conceded that it would indeed give me the female perspective, I wasn’t too keen on knowing what was going on in Jo’s head when she looked at a woman she fancied, especially if it was Lori. Instead, Jo’s niece Charlotte had pointed me towards some steamy sections from her chick lit collection and the message was clear, I should take my time in the lead-up. My instincts though were strongly telling me otherwise.

Lori took the decision out of my hands and pulled me to her with an urgency that brooked no denial. Women’s novels were were forgotten, remaining clothes were torn off and we were lost in a frenzy of long-denied passion.

Afterwards, we lay naked in the bed, facing each other. I allowed myself an admiring look then let her snuggle into my shoulder so we could feel each other’s closeness.

‘You know Lori, I’m not saying that passionate sex right there and then wasn’t absolutely the right thing to do in the circumstances…’

‘It certainly was the right thing to do,’ she asserted.

‘No question of that, but next time, I’m going to take my time and do it properly.’

‘Oh yes?’

‘I will begin by kissing you all over,’ I said, taking her hand in mine.

‘Even my feet?’

‘Yes. I might even suck a toe or two.’ I put her finger to my lips and sucked it gently to illustrate.

‘Ooh er. Dawn would be impressed.’

I’d come across Lori’s polyamorous friend before. I pulled her finger out of my mouth. ‘You’re not allowed to tell Dawn.’

‘I’m not sure about it then, the main thing would be to impress her, she always has such tales to tell. And I’d have to have a pedicure.’

‘No need. Your foot, whether it be hardened as a hoof or soft as a delicate flower, will be a beautiful thing to me. My tongue will lick between each toe, and give you exquisite pleasure.’ I slid my tongue down between her index and middle finger and ran it round the V shaped area where they met. To my great satisfaction, Lori gasped and her eyes began to darken again with desire.

‘Then I shall work my way up your legs to kiss the back of your knees, the soft gentle flesh at the top of your inner thighs, until you beg me to go higher.’ I ran my hands along her thighs gently.

‘You know you said next time?’

‘I meant now.’

Lori smiled and lay back.

I planted a kiss on Lori’s sleeping cheek, and tiptoed out. I shut the door carefully and stepped out into the hushed street. A rare sweet melody pierced the silence. I looked up in delight. I’d promised a song thrush to Lori for chopping down her bamboo and planting a native hawthorn, and there he was, perched on her chimney, surveying her back garden. He was singing his heart out, establishing nesting rights and a share of the berries. He began a new sequence. It could do with a pond, that’s what the thrush was singing. It had food now and shelter, but no water in sight. Would Lori let me dig a little one? Too soon to presume. He was so loud, surely he’d wake her up. The cheerful whistle of a robin calling to its mate was next to break the silence. I was tempted to join in. We’d decided I should leave first thing, in case Ethan came back early, but the thought of her warm, soft body just metres away was tantalising. I tried my own low whistle, but it was drowned out by the cooing of wood pigeons joining the pre-dawn chorus. A blackbird chased the thrush off its perch and sang its own tribute to the perfect spring day.

I turned round and accompanied by a chorus of fellow lovebirds, floated home. Funny moments, tender sighs, images remembered and imagined ran in erotic sequence across the lightening sky. Exhausted, elated, euphoric, I arrived at the apartment I shared with Jo. I paused to check myself over before going in. A faint smell of Lori lingered on my skin, my lips tingled from hers, my facial muscles held in a fixed grin that wouldn’t be disappearing for a while. Jo mustn’t see me like this. I must hide my happiness in case she found a way to destroy it. Not on purpose, but instinctively. It made her sound like a monster but I knew in my heart she wasn’t. Dear, dear Jo. I must play this one carefully though. She’d probably be asleep, but then again she might not have gone to bed yet. Who knows what she got up to last night – the first Saturday evening since Christmas we hadn’t spent together.

The treetops on the common over the road beckoned me. I wasn’t ready to be contained in a room. At this hour, the common was almost empty, just a couple arm in arm, and small child scampering ahead. This time I felt not envy for the man, but pity as he wasn’t with the most perfect woman in the world. Even the scampering child had a different meaning, for I had at last found Danny. He was thirty four now, but I’d thought of him every time I saw a young boy. I no longer needed to bottle up those feelings and I felt free, liberated from the heavy bonds of regret.

On impulse I headed for the underpass to the west side of the common to look at the graffiti. For decades I’d avoided it as it brought back such bittersweet memories of the times Danny and I used to stroll down it like art buyers, reviewing and commenting on each new addition. He’d see all kinds of monsters and creatures in the swirls, and I’d refrained from pointing out that most of them were just fancy tags and bubble style writing. I smiled, remembering the time he’d scribbled 5/10 below one only to get accosted by the artist who’d demanded why. When Danny told him he’d been marked down for drawing the dinosaur wrong, he’d disappointed Danny hugely by saying it wasn’t supposed to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex but a sloping letter F.

I thought of his hurt expression last night and felt a twinge of worry. Lori had been unsympathetic, but I could understand why. Since they’d got divorced five years ago, he’d prevented her from having any kind of love life, even going to the lengths of buying Ethan an air rifle to threaten potential suitors with. This was a tricky situation. Thwarted for so long, my love and desire for Lori filled every particle of my body, but after the decades of guilt I’d carried with me about Danny, I couldn’t countenance the thought that I’d have to choose between them. Lori had told me that Dan’s behaviour wasn’t due to jealousy, but was a hangover from his childhood when he was messed up from being exposed to an endless stream of his mother’s lovers. He’d wanted to protect Ethan from a similar fate. Maybe now he knew that he hadn’t been deliberately abandoned by his first father figure i.e. me, those hang ups would go away.

I saw a discarded paint can. On impulse, I picked it up and sprayed ‘Tim heart Lori’ on a relatively bare patch. I emphasised the heart a little more and then with the final squirts of paint, sprayed ‘10/10’ underneath and scribbled ‘Dan’, hoping that somehow that might make it true. Just as I turned away I spotted something out of the corner of my eye and did a double take. Squiggled below the colourful tags was Habitat Man Rules. Oh my days, I’d become graffiti! I’d resisted my five minutes of fame from the inquest. I’d hated the reporters, the social media storm and feeling out of control, but this was something else. A relatively amateur job in black, much less intricate than the giant multi-coloured tag above, but still! I sauntered on grinning. The sun burst through the underpass and warmed my back, my shadow growing taller as the sun rose. How ridiculous my fears seemed now. I’d been so terrified when I’d dug up the body of the guerrilla knitter. Not just that I was the only witness in a possible crime, but that my own skeletons would be revealed in the glare of publicity. The secret of my not-quite son who I’d been forced to leave when he was four. The restraining order his new ‘dad’ had set against me when I tried to see Danny one more time to explain. My worry of telling Lori, that she’d think the worst. The dark days of worry seemed an age ago, not yesterday. Lori knew, we’d made glorious perfect love, I’d found my Danny and now I was immortalised on the underpass wall.

I emerged from the underpass into the west side of the common. A lad in a hoody was heading towards me with a can, and I realised my immortalisation might be transitory. I turned around determined to take a photo to show Jo. Something to shut her up when she bragged about her thousands of social media followers. I looked around and was delighted to see another Habitat Man tag on the opposite wall. I was just in time as it looked like it had already been scribbled over. I stopped for a closer look and gasped in shock. Rules had been crossed out and Die had been written over it. Little red blobs of paint dripped off the final ‘e’, looking like blood. There was no doubting the meaning. Habitat Man Die.