Last Chances

All good things must come to an end, they say. I say a lot of things contrary to that, but despite my protests, my time in Manchester was quickly running out. Having spent the previous day driving Natalie and a van full of her possessions to her new home in London, I stumbled into work on this particularly bleak Thursday morning with the nagging feeling that I’d put too much effort into helping her move out. I had handed in my notice the previous Saturday, but even though this was my penultimate day in the job, I was in a foul mood.

With extreme reluctance I donned my headset and logged into my phone. I hated working in a call centre, but then everyone did. You had to; it was part of the entrance exam. The irony was that I would never have even considered taking a job there if it hadn’t been for Natalie. She was working here when I first met her, and when I hadn’t found a job within a couple of months of moving to Manchester to be with her, she insisted on getting me a job here beside her. This was fine for the first week or so, until she was suddenly offered a better job elsewhere, which she jumped at, leaving me stranded here. Being a busy call centre, the staff were expected to be taking calls pretty much non-stop, with a seemingly limitless number of combinations of shifts and breaks, which made it virtually impossible to socialise with my colleagues. Or maybe I just didn’t have the knack.

After an hour of taking stupid phone calls from stupid people, my mood lifted slightly as I saw Melissa searching for an empty desk. They were like gold dust in this place; for some reason (probably financial) the management didn’t seem keen on providing enough seats for the number of people they employed. Gesticulating wildly, I managed to catch Melissa’s eye and indicated the empty desk next to mine.

Melissa was something of a kindred spirit; like me, she had only lived in the area for about a year, and Natalie had got her a job here too. In fact, they had been best friends for a while; Natalie had invited Melissa to stay with us for a few weeks while Melissa was looking for a place of her own, and had even arranged for Melissa to get together with Brian, an ex-boyfriend of Natalie’s who had confessed to her that he fancied Melissa. (Confused? So am I, try and stick with it.) Sometime after that, for some reason which I had never quite been able to fathom, Melissa and Natalie had fallen out. The only vague explanation I could figure out was that Natalie was upset that Melissa was sleeping with her ex-boyfriend. (I told you I was confused.) This made things somewhat awkward. I liked Melissa, and had no particular wish to fall out with her, but Natalie was obsessed with the idea that I fancied Melissa more than her. To be fair, she was probably right, although I denied it strenuously at the time. Physically, Melissa was the opposite of Natalie in almost every respect; shorter and less curvy but with a cute face and mousey brown hair which she had recently dyed red, much to Natalie’s disgust as she had done the same a few weeks previously.

Anyway. Melissa settled herself down in the chair next to mine, let out a long sigh, and rested her head on her arms on the desk. Given that we couldn’t talk to each other while we were taking calls, we had developed a simple and inexpensive form of text messaging: we scribbled notes on a piece of paper and passed them back and forwards across the desk. In this way we could liven up the day by playing word games, slagging off the customers, or just discussing life in general. It was to this form of communication that I now turned. Ripping a sheet of paper from my notepad, I scribbled, “Haven’t seen you for ages, how are you?”

Taking the note, Melissa looked thoughtfully at the paper for a very long time. Eventually she settled on merely scribbling the word “Crap” and passing it back.

Hmmm. “You too?” I wrote.

Melissa looked inquisitively at me. “What’s up?” she scrawled back.

For effect, I took a fresh sheet of paper and began to write down everything that had happened in the past week or so since I had last seen Melissa. This took the space of several phone calls, but the main points were that Natalie had gone, that tomorrow was my last day at work and that I was going back to Scotland at the end of the month. I passed the note to Melissa and watched her read it, her jaw repeatedly dropping as she did so. Reaching the end, she looked up at me, open mouthed, for several seconds, before turning away again as she reassured an impatient caller that she was still on the line. She began scribbling again and passed the note back in my direction.

“But I’ll never see you again!” it read.

She had a point, of course. “I’m still here for a couple of weeks,” I wrote. “And we can keep in touch, I’ll give you my e-mail address.”

Melissa read the note, scribbled on it, and passed it back. She had drawn an arrow back to the phrase “But I’ll never see you again,” with the word “see” heavily underlined and a sad face drawn beside it for added emphasis.

I tapped my pen thoughtfully against my teeth. Another bizarre idea which had obsessed Natalie was that Melissa fancied me and was trying to steal me away from her. I had always dismissed this as, with pun intended, fanciful nonsense; Melissa was perfectly happy with Brian and I was perfectly happy with Natalie. But what if Natalie knew something I didn’t? When she and Melissa had been best friends, they had been quite happy to share their secrets. I still remembered the time, not long after Melissa had moved in, that the three of us had been in the pub and Natalie had merrily blurted out the fact that she could turn me on just by getting her clothes wet. I had tried to laugh it off at the time, of course, but now I could feel myself starting to blush just by thinking back to it. While I was pondering all this, Melissa took the note back, jotted down something else and passed it back again.

“I’m seriously thinking of dumping Brian,” it read.

Now it was my turn to look up in surprise. “Why?” I scribbled back.

Melissa looked at me, shrugged, and scribbled. “I don’t really want to write it all down,” the note read. “Do you fancy going for a drink after work? I need someone to talk to.”

“Me too,” I wrote back, “but I’m really tired after all that driving yesterday. Why don’t you just come round to the house?”

This provoked a smile from Melissa, the first I’d seen all morning. “Cool,” she scrawled. “Hangman?”

I obligingly drew some lines on another sheet of paper and passed it back to Melissa. The discussion was over for now.

The doorbell rang at 6:59. Melissa had said she’d be over about 7. Obviously she had no intention of being fashionably late. Fortunately I had started making dinner early just to be on the safe side. I switched off the cooker and went to open the door.

Bloody hell.

Melissa looked absolutely stunning. She wore a strappy red silk top and a dazzlingly short black skirt with black tights and black leather stiletto heeled calf-length boots. She had legs! This was a revelation; in all the time I’d known her she’d always worn long skirts, trousers or jeans. I forced my eyes back upwards. Her flame red hair, which she normally wore in a ponytail, hung loose around her shoulders. Her make-up was immaculate, and a delicate gold chain around her neck helpfully pointed out her cleavage, not particularly large, but nicely formed. Curiously, she was also carrying a large, bulky shoulderbag which didn’t sit well with the rest of the outfit.

“Hi,” she said, simply.

Once the shock had subsided, I remembered to invite her in. She followed me into the kitchen. “Dinner’s just about ready,” I told her, desperately trying to sound composed. “You look fantastic.” I looked her up and down again. “Going to a party?”

Melissa grinned. “No… I like to make the effort. I brought some wine.” Changing the subject masterfully, she rummaged in her bag, produced a bottle of red wine from within it, and handed the bottle to me, dumping the bag on the floor.

“Oh,” I said, “that’s very thoughtful, thanks. Except there’s plenty alcohol in the house already… Natalie didn’t take any with her and I probably won’t have room to take it up north with me when I leave.”

“Ah well,” shrugged Melissa, “better too much than not enough, eh?” Her face broke into a grin again. I looked at her and grinned back. Maybe it was just that I’d only had eyes for Natalie when we were together, but I’d never realised before just how pretty Melissa was. Then again, I’d never seen her make this much effort before. I was never any good at reading the signs, but it certainly looked like she was making a fairly serious play for me. Or perhaps that strap holding up her top had slipped off her shoulder purely by accident…

Over dinner we talked at great length about our respective relationship problems. I explained how Natalie had decided that going to stay with one of her old friends in London would be a better bet than staying in Manchester with me, while Melissa told me how Brian didn’t seem to be particularly interested in her anymore, and how she was sure he was seeing someone else. I offered sympathy, more wine, and now that we’d finished dinner, a more comfortable seat on the sofa.

This led on to a distinctly unromantic but detailed analysis of just how awful the call centre was, and how the generally anti-social nature of the shifts meant that neither of us had much of a social life and hadn’t really made many friends. I could see Melissa looking upset, and if I hadn’t drunk half a bottle of wine by that stage, I would probably have stopped myself from saying that I still had more friends “back home” than I did here, which was why I was moving away.


Melissa looked up at me with big, puppy dog eyes. “But what about me?” she asked, quietly. “Natalie’s gone, Brian’s a big feckless idiot, I hate my flatmates, and now you’re leaving… I don’t have any other friends.” She looked away, her bottom lip trembling. I put my arm around her. “Shhh,” I told her. “Don’t cry.”

But cry she did. She buried her head into my shoulder and sobbed into it. I pulled her closer and did my best to comfort her, stroking her hair and placing a kiss on her forehead. Melissa snuggled into me for consolation, and the tears gradually subsided. As she looked up at me again, I produced a handkerchief and gently dabbed at her eyes. “I’m trying not to smudge your mascara,” I told her. This brought a smile back to Melissa’s face, and we kissed. It seemed to be the right thing to do. Melissa untangled herself from me and rose to her immaculately-shod feet. “I’m just going to use the bathroom,” she said.

I watched her as she left the room. This, in case you hadn’t spotted it, was the pivotal moment. Until now I’d only ever thought of Melissa as a friend. We were both attached, so any “funny business” was strictly forbidden. Now, I suddenly realised, things were different. I was no longer attached - Natalie’s sudden departure had seen to that - and Melissa’s attachment to Brian was clearly hanging by a thread. I drained my wine glass, sat back on the sofa and wondered what would happen next. Melissa seemed to be taking a while in the bathroom. Maybe she was fixing her make-up. Maybe I should open more wine. I wandered through to the kitchen, found the best bottle that Natalie had neglected to take with her, and opened it as Melissa made her way downstairs and stood in the kitchen doorway.

I gasped. Melissa was sopping wet. Without a word of explanation, she leant against the door frame, allowing one of her shoulder straps to slip down again. Water was pouring from her bedraggled hair and onto her top, the red silk clinging provocatively to her body, wrinkling slightly as it stuck to her middle, and showing the outline of a strapless bra underneath. The water continued to drip from her skirt, now as shiny as the silk of her top, down her nylon-clad legs and into her boots, from where it seeped out into a puddle on the floor.

My first thought was that she had had some bizarre bathroom accident, but as she swayed towards me, I suddenly realised what was happening. I couldn’t help but stare as Melissa’s saturated skirt moulded itself perfectly to her thighs with every step, hinting at what lay beneath. She stopped directly in front of me and looked me straight in the eye. “I have to thank your ex-girlfriend for one thing,” she said in a low voice. “She told me everything I need to know.”

I felt myself start to blush. “You, er… you remember that night in the pub as well,” I stammered.

“Oh yes,” said Melissa. “She did say it turned you on.” She ran her dripping fingers down my chest, stopping at the waistband of my jeans. “And I can see she wasn’t lying.”

Before I could blush any further, Melissa put her arms around my waist and pressed her body against mine. I felt the wetness of her clothes first soak through my shirt, then into my jeans, and realised there was no sense in putting up any more resistance. I wrapped my arms around her and began to explore, running my fingers through her soaked hair, caressing her shoulders, feeling the wet silk on her back as we kissed passionately. My hands made their own way down Melissa’s hips until I found myself fondling her bottom through the thick, wet cotton of her skirt.

“If you explore that area a little further,” she told me breathlessly, “you’ll find I’m not actually fully clothed. I hope you don’t mind.”

What did she mean by that? By moving my hands further down her thighs, I was able to feel that she was in fact wearing stockings, rather than tights. I moved my hands back up to her bottom. The penny dropped, as did my lower jaw. “You’re not w…”

Melissa silenced me mid-sentence with a kiss, and pressed her body further into mine. Tentatively, I slipped my hands inside the back of her soaked top and unhooked her bra. Presumably she had no need for that either. Being strapless, it came away quite easily in my hands. Smiling, Melissa took a step back to allow me to see her pert breasts and now quite erect nipples straining against the wet silk. I gently ran my hands over her front, while Melissa did the same with my now soaked shirt, before turning her attention to my jeans. Sensing that the inevitable was about to happen, she unzipped me, lifted her skirt and pressed herself to me again.

Several hours later, as we lay entwined in bed, wet clothing now removed, Melissa explained everything; how she’d fancied me ever since she’d been living here, but couldn’t do anything about it for fear of jeopardising my relationship with Natalie, even though Natalie’s love of blurting out secrets had inspired all sorts of fantasies in Melissa’s mind. “Didn’t you notice,” she asked, “that every time I said I was going out jogging, it looked as if it was going to rain?”

“No,” I admitted. “Although if it had rained, I would have noticed.”

Melissa smiled. “You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve thought about doing exactly what I did tonight,” she told me. “Every time Natalie went out to work and you and I were here together, I thought about taking a shower with my clothes on and coming back downstairs to seduce you.”

I nuzzled against Melissa’s cheek. “And I thought you were so sweet and innocent.”

She laughed. “I am. That’s why I always chickened out.” She stroked my neck gently. “I even tried wearing clothes in the shower to see what would look best wet.”

“You little minx,” I grinned at her. “What did you decide?”

“Well, what I wore tonight was my first choice. One time I came in from jogging and showered with my tracksuit still on, but it held too much water and got too heavy. Oh, you know my long black skirt with the buttons down the front? That worked quite well. It went really clingy and showed off my legs…” She broke off and giggled. “Feels like that’s had the desired effect on you.”

We didn’t really sleep that night, just drifted in and out of consciousness while kissing, petting and stroking each other. Before we knew what was happening, the sun was up and we had to think about going to work.

I checked the bedside clock. 6:59. I quickly reached out and flicked the switch so the alarm wouldn’t go off at seven. Melissa opened her eyes, propped herself up to look at the clock, and sank back down with a groan. “I start work in an hour.”

“Don’t go,” I told her, pulling her closer. “Call in sick. Be a rebel for once.”

Melissa kissed me, but pulled away shaking her head. “I have to go,” she asserted. “And so do you.” She poked me playfully in the chest with her finger and got out of bed, taking the duvet and wrapping it around herself.

“Cobblers.” I sat up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. “I’m not going. It’s my last day, who’s going to tell me off? They won’t even notice. And you can’t go, what are you going to wear?”

“I brought a change of clothes with me. Do you really think I didn’t have every tiny detail planned out?”

Well, that explained the shoulderbag. “I don’t start till nine,” I called after the departing Melissa, “at least give me the duvet back!”

She didn’t. I hastily pulled on a t-shirt and a pair of boxers and sat on the bed, thinking back over the previous twelve hours. Okay, I was on the rebound from Natalie, but this was the first time in weeks that I’d really felt wanted. What’s more, Melissa was absolutely right; our time together was running out. I couldn’t let her go to work today. If Melissa could come up with a fiendish plan to ensnare me, it was only fair that I should do the same for her. Grabbing the phone, I called work and told them Melissa had a sore throat and wouldn’t be in, then sat back and waited for her to finish getting ready.

Sure enough, not long afterwards, Melissa returned to the bedroom, now sporting proper Melissa-type clothes: a simple white t-shirt, light stone-coloured trousers and strappy black sandals, her hair tied back into a ponytail as usual. She sat down on the bed and started to do her make-up. “Are you still here?” she asked, sticking out her tongue.

“So it would seem,” I replied, pulling a similar face. “Although since I no longer have a duvet, I might as well get up.”

I made my way into the bathroom, where I set about running a bath. Nothing fancy, no bubble bath or anything, just a reasonable amount of water, warm enough not to be unpleasant. This done, I returned to the bedroom, sat on the bed beside Melissa, and started to stroke her neck. “You don’t really want to go to work, do you?”

Melissa stopped doing her make-up and turned to look at me. “Of course I don’t want to,” she said, “but…”

I put my finger on her lips to hush her. “I was just thinking,” I continued, “it would be a shame if that outfit were to get wet too, then you’d have nothing to go to work in.”

Before Melissa could reply, I scooped her up in my arms and carried her to the bathroom. I expected her to struggle and protest, but as I dangled her precariously over the bath, she simply looked up at me with a grin. “Go on then,” she teased, “I dare you.”

Gently, I lowered Melissa into the bath in a sitting position. The water immediately soaked through her light trousers, causing them to become very revealing. Gratifyingly, Melissa seemed quite happy about being drenched in her work clothes, even her shoes. She wriggled her toes inside her sandals and lifted each leg out of the water in turn, letting me see the water pour out of her trousers, leaving them clinging to her trim, shapely legs. Clearly enjoying the effect this was having on me, she slid down onto her back to soak her t-shirt, and sat back up to let me see exactly how transparent it had become, showing off a lacy white bra in the process.

Unable to control myself any longer, I climbed into the bath beside her, and we carried on from where we had left off the previous evening. “I can see I’m going to have a lot of washing to do in the next couple of weeks,” announced Melissa, with a devilish grin.