Rochester came over on his final night North.
'Just been having a drink with your ex pet.'
He was referring, of course, to his eldest brother, Dr Stir Fry (aka Senor Boldon). Can I just clarify that Dr Stir Fry is NOT a real doctor. Ladies, if he does try to get you to undress behind a screen or put your legs in stirrups then please do not acquiesce. He has had no medical training whatsoever. The cove was christened Dr Stir Fry by Madam Noir. The man has one of the most severe cases of OCD I have ever encountered. When I knew him he would eat the same thing every night, at the same time every night. Routines and rituals govern Dr Stir-Fry's life with a cruel and unyielding tyranny. My relationship with him was brief, but intense. To quote Princess Diana, 'there were 3 of us' in that relationship. Me, him and his wok. It would never have worked. I abhor stir fry.
Rochester now always refers to 'Dr Stir Fry' as 'my ex'. He thinks he's funny. They are very close though. I asked the rogue if he had confided in his brother that we were 'in touch' again.
'The fuck I have.' was he taciturn response.
It was long past midnight when Rochester arrived. It was the first time he had ever met Hetty and Cyril. Neither of the dogs are very keen on men of the male gender. They nervously scooted out of his way. Rochester was particularly enamoured with Cyril.
'What a fucking beautiful dog. He is absolutely stunning. Honestly, just fucking gorgeous.'
"Christ Rochester. I wish you were so complimentary and effusive about me. Sometimes I think you have an allergy to adjectives'
'Not true petal. I said you had a lovely, big arse the other week.'
We were curled on the sofa. Hetty and Cyril were canoodling with each other on the rug.
'Awww look. They properly love each other.' smiled the rogue. Indeed, the dogs did seem to bring out the cad's softer side.
'I tell you what pet. Let's take some drinks up to bed and you can read me your latest blog.'
So, that is what we did. Rochester did try to cajole me into reading 'Of Lice and Men' to him.
'Aw, go on petal. You read it out loud to me. I'd love that.'
I refused. Lazy twat. I know full well that Rochester has been doing all his own reading since he was 30. I enjoyed watching him read it though. He has always been rather dismissive about my blog. He recently referred to it as a tad 'petit bourgeois'. The most gushing he has ever been was to say he supposed it was 'pretty good really.' There was much guffawing and scoffing as he read the account of our last night together. There was also a generous sprinkling of indignant 'You CUNT!'s. The use of the 'C' word is always a sign that Rochester is thoroughly enjoying himself.
'Aye, it's an interesting persona you're developing there, Miss Underscore: witty but also quite poignant.'
I asked him if he was ever offended by his portrayal as 'Rochester'. I know many men couldn't cope with it.
'Nah. I think I come across OK really. It could be a lot worse.'
Later that night, as Rochester and I were, ahem, enjoying each other's company, there was a bit of an embarrassing incident. Hetty decided to launch herself on the bed and join in. I can only imagine it was the noises that set her off: gentle squealing (me), gruff growling and purring (him). I shall just say that the lurcher girl waited for the absolute most inopportune moment to join us. I watched in horror as she neatly landed behind Rochester. Her ears were pricked, her tail was wagging and she was doing a prancingly excited jig. I could tell that delighted howling was imminent. Rochester, amazingly, was oblivious (although to be fair, his attention was diligently focussed elsewhere). 'Dear God,' I thought, 'This is awful. What shall I do?' I surreptitiously gave the hound a firm and assertive prod with my big toe. Hetty, ever the sensitive flower, yelped loudly and indignantly.
'Awww for fuck's sake!!!!! Don't tell me there's a cunting dog in the bed. FUCKING HELL ELIZABETH!!!!! This REALLY isn't working for me now.'
Rochester, totally put off his stroke, slumped sulkily back over to his own side of the bed.
I tried to soothe him.
'Come on now Rochester. You're not telling me that's the first time you've found yourself in bed with a dog.'
'True pet. But why does it always seem to happen in Sunderland?'
I woke early. Rochester was wrapped around me. He felt feverish. In fact, he was burning up. The bed was soaking. He had indeed been suffering with a mini plague all week. I went to the bathroom, my nightie damply clinging to me. I looked in the mirror.
A scene of total cosmetic devastation confronted me. I had gone to bed with Rochester looking as sleek and sophisticated as Louise Brooks.
The damp, Malarial heat radiating from Rochester had transformed my hair into a tight curl. I was 50% Leo Sayer, 30% Marsha Hunt and 20% Fraggle Rock.
My tortured scream awoke the rogue.
'Jesus Christ! What the fuck is the matter now?'
'My hair! What have you done to my hair?!'
It was an unmitigated disaster.
Later that morning we sat at the kitchen table, drinking tea. I felt a nagging, gentle sadness. Rochester was going home and I didn't have a clue what would happen next: when, or even if I would see him again.
'So, what now Rochester?'
'Well pet, I get a taxi, I check out of the hotel and then, then I go home.'