Saturday 1 July 2023

Saturday Sample: For a Few Hours by Yvonne Walus, coffee

Paradise for a Few Hours


What kind of woman hires a sex worker?

A stranger.

A woman like me.

Hello and welcome to another day in paradise. The time is 7.00 am and the air smells of home-cooked waffles.

“Just coffee for me, thanks.” That’s Ian, my husband. He’s a big shot at an IT firm, and that’s all I can tell you. There was a time when I could tell you what projects he managed, the names of his clients and colleagues, and what development environment they used. Just like there was a time when I had a career and deadlines and a life.

But now all I know is that Ian’s a big shot in IT. More importantly, I know I’m a survivor.

“Just coffee for me, thanks,” mimics my eleven-year old daughter.

“Eat your breakfast, Mia,” I say, then do a mental cringe; exactly when did I turn into my mother?

Ian waves goodbye. We stopped kissing a long time ago.

My husband blames me. I blame the cancer.

Oh, he is still attentive enough at parties, the perfect ones we throw at our perfect house, or the ones we grace with our presence on other cliff tops. In public, he will stroke my thigh or drop a quick kiss onto my neck when everybody’s looking. In private, he avoids bodily contact, as though the disease were infectious.

We’re late.

I yell, I octopus schoolbags and sports gear into the car, then I speed-crawl through the school run. As though I were an ordinary mum.

Many women envy me my perfectly toned body, my perfect house, my perfect family. That’s what I need; I need them to envy me. If they envy me hard enough, I may even start envying myself.

After my gym workout and a cigarette, I stop at a discreet white villa to have sex with a stranger. Today’s guy looks like a model in his tight black jeans and the shirt he’s left unbuttoned.

I strip - except for my tube top - and lie face down on the bed. No words; the advantage of paying for it. Soft music permeates the little room as he caresses sandalwood oil into my shoulders, buttocks and feet. Ten minutes later I turn onto my back and his fingertips print slippery circles into my stomach and thighs. He’s been told not to touch my chest.


Any bloke would envy me my job. Every morning, I play hide-the-salami, and I get paid to do it. Doesn’t get much better than that.

My rates dictate that all my clients are rich, and therefore finishing-school polite, preserved with creams and long days of leisure, with boob lifts and tummy tucks, with Botox or whatever the latest craze might be. What I like most is not the sex. I mean, sex is uber important when you aren’t getting any, but regular sex is overrated.

No, what I like is the sense of power. My power to give or withhold. My power to fulfil their fantasies.

Every day, I enter my personal bit of paradise, where strangers worship my body with their money. They are lonely, lost, looking for love. I make them forget - for a few hours. Better than nothing.

Today’s stranger looks healthy but one glance at the tube top and I know she’s scarred - inside and out. I also know remission is not forever. My mum’s lasted three years. When she died, my sister took it hard. Dad took it even harder; disappeared one fine morning, leaving me to look after Bronwyn. And that’s what I’ve been doing: the best private school in town, extra lessons, horse riding, and ski camps. Just like the rich kids.

Easy money. Any bloke would envy me. And you know what? They bloody well should. A dream job. Paradise.


Back home, I’m still smiling as I start the dinner preparations. Ever since I got sick, we’ve had a cleaner three times a week and the garden services weekly, so I kill time by ironing Ian’s business shirts to show him how much I love him.

Kill time.... When the diagnosis came through, time was all I could think about. I wondered how much I had left. I counted every hour spent with and without the children. I renounced every activity I disliked, pruned out every time-filler, cut out TV and chit-chat lunches. My life post-diagnosis, the part that wasn’t spent on treatment and recovery, was a blueprint for efficiency and time management.

And now? Now I even have time to colour coordinate the bathroom towels and bake Ian’s favourite cake before it’s time to chauffeur my children from school to drama and soccer and homework groups.

After school is where my two worlds mesh. Today’s stranger from the discreet while villa has a younger sister in the same group as Mia. It’s less awkward…than it should be; there is the surprise that comes from when you see somebody you know out of context, but I can handle that. Then he extends his hand to introduce himself – and I am ready for that too.

“I’m Damian, Bronwyn’s brother, how are you?” As though we hadn’t seen each other earlier this morning.

Before I have a chance to react, Mia launches into a lengthy recount of the last hour, including the announcement that she needs a pair of boots “the very same as Shelly’s.” And that is it.

Over her shoulder, I steal a look at Damian. Still the same tight jeans that sent electric shivers through me only five hours ago. Still the same shirt, now firmly buttoned up.

I reach into my bag for a cigarette.

His eyebrows lift. “Should you?” He reaches over and puts his hand on mine.

What I should be is furious with him for mentioning the unmentionable. Instead all I feel is tired. I shrug off his concern together with his fingers. Light up. Inhale.

 “Mummy!” That’s my son, who’s not yet old enough to roll his eyes and call me “mu-um”.

With that one word, I become a different person, a person who doesn’t think about men in tight jeans, or sandalwood oil, or cigarettes.

“Let’s go home,” I hug him tight to what’s left of my chest. By the time we’re done cuddling, I’ve forgotten about Damian.

For the rest of the day, I’m a marionette, turning with every pull of the strings tugged by my children. Mummy-this, Mummy-that, Mum-do, Mum-help, may-I, why-not, I-don’t-want-to-eat-carrots, Mum-come-here-there-is-a-big-spider-on-my-bookshelf, another-ten-minutes-Mummy-I-want-to-finish-watching-this.

Ian comes home when the children are already asleep. His eyes are wilted and there are stress lines in his jaw. He eats his dinner in front of the TV, though I will bet my factory-new BMW that he has no idea what he’s watching. He gobbles up our anniversary cake on autopilot, without realising he’s forgotten the date. Again.

By the time he switches off the TV, I’m in bed, sheltered by a set of chaste cream silk pyjamas.

And now he’s under the covers, snaking towards me. “Come on, how about it?”

So much for foreplay.

I turn away. “You know why not.”

“I can do you from the back. I won’t see a thing.”

And so much for sensitivity.  I can do you from the back. Whatever happened to: You are beautiful, or: You look even sexier with your boobs gone, or: Nipples are way overrated?

“Goodnight, Ian.”

“Women,” he mutters. Then he raises his voice. “There is just no way to please you, is there? Look around you. You live in paradise. Any half-sane woman would love to trade places with you.”

“Yeah,” I bite back. “She would have to be only half-sane.”

“Bitch!” He switches off his light and turns his face to the wall.

Throat constricted and eyes smarting, I desert the bed and slide out onto the deck. Out of habit, I reach for the cigarettes. I long for the burst of nicotine in my lungs, easing away the tension, ironing out the hurt. Suddenly I remember the look on Damian’s face. His fingers on mine when he tried to stop me.

The kindness of strangers. I take aim and throw. The white-and-red packet makes a graceful arc through the evening air straight into the pampered clump of flax in the corner. My silver lighter  inscribed “To my precious wife on our tenth anniversary” follows suit.

And then I climb back into the marital bed, pull the goose down duvet up to my chin, breathe in the faint lemon scent of my linen and the soap smell of the stranger I married.

So ends another day in my paradise. And I know that tomorrow will trace the same pattern in the cosmic makeup of my life. Still, I’m thankful for the hours of today, and I’m thankful that I was given tomorrow to look forward to. Some women without breasts aren’t so lucky.

What kind of woman hires a sex worker?

One like me.

A stranger without boobs staring at me from every mirror.


First published in Hysteria 2 anthology, UK, November 2013

About the author

 When Yvonne Walus is not a writer, she's a Doctor of Mathematics. A business analyst. A wife and a mother. And always a dreamer who hopes to change the world one book at a time. Her heritage is inter-continental. The first twelve years of her life in communist Poland taught her not to trust newspapers, how to game the system, to value uniformity, and to ride in public transport squashed between so many people that her feet didn’t touch the ground. The next sixteen years in South Africa’s apartheid taught her never to trust newspapers, how to game a different system, to value diversity, and to drive the car fifty metres down the road to the mail box. New Zealand is a fantastic country to live in - consequently, she's lived here longer than anywhere else., and she's even beginning to trust newspapers. Crime fiction is her passion, particularly stories with surprise endings. Her childhood hero was, predictably, Hercule Poirot. Now she loves Harlan Coben's super-rich super-able Win (Windsor Horne Lockwood) and Jack Reacher, but her forever-favourite is Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch in his role as Sherlock Holmes. Her website is: She reviews books on her blog:

No comments:

Post a Comment