David smiled. It was a small smile, not quite reaching his eyes. It was one of just a few that had happened in the past few months. A full, cheek to cheek, teeth baring, bright smile was a thing of the past. Laughter had buried itself deep within himself, another distant memory. Any of his family or friends would have recognized the signs of depression easily. Hell, even David recognized it, he just refused to acknowledge it.
He was back in London and had wandered into Hyde Park. There was a little boy and little girl about five or six years old playing on the grass with a puppy. Watching them romp and roll about on the grass was what had brought the smile to his face. They reminded him of Owen and Lyssa when they were little.
The last few times he had spoken with his daughter she had begged him to come back home. David had been gone for nearly two months and still felt lost. Maybe he should go home and find a therapist to talk to. Or maybe he should wander around for just a little longer.
After he left Switzerland, David had meandered through Austria and the Czech Republic before cutting back into Germany. He had rented a car for a few days and drove through southern Germany and the Black Forest. He wasn’t a huge fan of castles and churches, but he had always wanted to see Neuschwanstein Castle. Living in Florida he was curious about the structure that is said to have been the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle. When he arrived he had to admit it was beautiful.
He paid for admission and entered right behind a group of about 10 teenagers plus a few adult chaperones. He heard one of the kids telling their guide they were with a church exchange program and they all lived in Connecticut. Their guide spoke English with a thick German accent. He was young, probably early twenties and most likely giving tours for the summer to earn some extra cash. David tagged along just behind them, listening to the information the guide provided.
The guide was commenting about how King Ludwig had the castle built as a result of a boyhood notion that he had conceived when he lived in his childhood home of nearby Hohenschwangau. Ludwig had been an eccentric man and his love of the arts and architecture took precedence over his desire to rule. His avoidance of participating with the government in Munich caused considerable tension with the government’s ministers. The common people, however, loved him. He was often referred to as Unser Kini, or ‘cherished King’. Their guide spoke of how he would often travel through the countryside stopping to talk with the locals. He enjoyed walking in the surrounding woods and was an avid hooker. Wait, what?
Ten teenagers and several adults started giggling. The guide just had a puzzled look on his face until one of the adults gently corrected him.
“I think you meant hiker. Hooker is a whole different thing.” the man said. David couldn’t help but chuckle, especially considering that historians were pretty much in agreement that Ludwig had been gay.
The guide suddenly understood and turned bright red. David though it was kind of cute.
They made it through the rest of the tour and David was happy he had stopped. His curiosity was satisfied and he was entertained by the youth group, although it did make him miss his kids.
David had spent a few days making his way through Germany. He continued to couch surf, meeting quite the variety of people. He only had to supplement his stay with cheap hotels a few times and a couple of times he had spent a night on the train, travelling from one place to another. He had stuck to his budget, occasionally buying something for one of the kids that caught his eye. He had stopped in the town of Oberammergau, famous for its reenactment of the Passion Play every ten years. David had no interest in religion, but he did appreciate the beauty of the buildings that had been painted with different scenes from the play. The town was also known for wood carving. David had browsed through one of the little shops and found a beautiful hand carved unicorn for Lyssa’s collection. For Owen he chose a highly detailed carved eagle. It was his school’s mascot. He also picked up an ornate box that had been carved with intricately knotted and intertwined ropes, in a triangular pattern. The shopkeeper said it was a type of Celtic knot. It reminded him of TC. The unicorn and eagle got shipped to the kids, the box he held onto.
He had taken a ferry over to Sweden and spent ten days exploring Scandinavia. He found the scenery to be breathtaking and the people friendly. Norway was by far his favorite Scandinavian country. He had used their extensive ferry system and made it far enough north to spend two days in continuous daylight, timing his arrival to coincide with the summer solstice. It was beautiful.
Now he was back in London, contemplating his next step. Constant travel after so many weeks, only staying a night or two in each place, was starting to wear on him and he felt like he needed to stay put for a while. He was slowly coming to terms with the reality that he and TC were better off as friends. After leaving the park and the kids playing with their puppy he took the Tube back to his hotel. He had found a halfway decent hotel outside the city proper and booked it for two nights while he decided what to do.
He settled on looking for something that might be able to accommodate him for a week or two. He decided that if he didn’t find anything by the time he needed to check out he would look at flights to take him home.
Picking up his tablet, David scrolled through the ads, looking for his next place to stay. His eye caught an ad for handyman needed, free room and board. The town on the listing was called Watchet and David looked it up on the map. It was a small town about a hundred and seventy miles to the west of London, on the Bristol Sea.
He dialled the number listed and listened to it ring a few times. The difference in ring tones between the US and most of Europe amused him for some reason. The call ended up going to a voicemail. An older woman’s British accent started to speak, instructing him to leave a message.
David had barely gotten out his name and why he was calling when the call was picked up on the other end. She must have an old fashioned answering machine connected to a landline.
“Ello? Sorry, I was out in the garden.” the pleasant voice said.
“Hello, My name is David Callaghan and I’m calling about the ad you placed online. Are you still needing a handyman?” he asked.
“Why yes, Dear, I am. You’re an American, aren’t you?” she commented.
“Yes, ma’am. I’m enjoying some time off for a while and exploring.” David told her, not wanting to delve into the real reason he was hiding from his real life.
“How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?” she said.
“I’m forty ma’am. Can you tell me a little about what type of handyman services you need?” David asked, not wanting to commit to something he wouldn’t be able to do.
“Ah, yes. Well, I’m Charlotte Tinsdale by the way. I own a three bedroom cottage that’s needing a little TLC. I’d like my hardwood floors stripped, waxed and polished. One of my spare bedrooms has been used for storage and I’d like to go through everything and sort it out. Most of it can be given away, but there is too much for me to move around. I also have a garage that needs to be cleaned out as well. There’s plenty of work to be done. However, don’t feel obliged to stay to do it all. If you just want to work on one project and then move on I’ll be grateful for the help.” Charlotte stated.
David mulled it over for a moment and then said, “Well ma’am, I’d be happy to help you out with whatever you need. I’ve been travelling around for the past few weeks and it will be nice to be able to stay put for a little bit. This sounds like it would be perfect.”
“Please, you may call me Dr. Charlotte, ma’am makes me feel older than I really am. Well then young man, when would you like to start?” Dr. Charlotte asked.
“That depends. Is there a train station near you?” David inquired.
“Yes and no, we have a bus station here. You can take the train to Taunton and then switch to the bus. It’s less than an hour from Taunton. Where are you right now?” she said.
“I’m in London at the moment.” he replied.
“Oh, marvelous. You should be able to get a train from Paddington Station I believe. Just let me know what time you’ll be in and I’ll be around to pick you up.” she informed him. She then gave him her cell phone number and told him a text would be fine.
David thanked her and after deciding to leave tomorrow he ended the call. He then looked up train schedules and saw that indeed the train ran several times a day out that way. The trip was three to three and a half hours depending on the time of day. He figured that he could take a late morning train and get there by midafternoon.
David let the hotel know that he was only staying one night. He had been flitting around from place to place so often and was tired, staying put would be a nice change. There was a laundromat next to the hotel so David spent the evening getting his stuff clean. Once it was done he packed it all in the large backpack, leaving out a clean set of clothes for the next day.
He lay on the bed in the little room that he had been assigned and let his mind spin. He missed his home, his kids, his job and most of all TC. His heart was nowhere near being healed. If anything he felt it break even more with every day that passed. He hoped that this next place would keep his mind occupied so he couldn’t dwell on what he was missing. David fell asleep, never even noticing the tears that slipped down his cheeks.
The next day dawned soggy, damp and cool. Weather in the UK was fickle. Even though it was summer the current conditions were more like early spring. David dressed in the layers he had laid out the night before and pulled his jacket closed as he left the hotel the next morning. He took the Tube to Paddington Station. There was a train that left at eleven forty-three and would have him in Watchet by two forty-five. He bought a ticket and then sent a text to Dr. Charlotte. He wondered what type of doctor she had been.
David sat and waited for the boarding call, watching the flurry of humanity pass by. He made his way over to his train when he heard it called and took his seat by the window. It was a pleasant journey as he looked out at the English countryside, passing through small towns and hamlets with occasional long stretches of woodlands and farms. They arrived in Taunton on time and David was pointed in the direction of the bus station just a short way down the road. It only took him a few minutes to walk there and once there the wait was minimal. The weather had cleared and the clouds had given way to the sun, though the temperature was not as warm as it normally was, David was able to pack his light jacket away.
Dr. Charlotte had been right, less than an hour later he disembarked the bus at the Watchet stop. The stop was close to the water and there was a strong wind blowing off the bay. He saw a car parked in one of the marked handicapped spots adjacent to the stop. The door opened and for a moment it looked like it had opened by itself, until he realized that the driver was short, as in extremely short. The door closed and he saw a snow white head of hair come around the front of the car. The white head was attached to a little wisp of an elderly woman. David guessed she was in her eighties and she couldn’t have been much more than four and half feet tall. She was smartly dressed in a pair of black pants with sensible shoes. She was wearing a windbreaker that would be waist length on most people, but on her it hung to just above her knees.
“You must be David.” she said as she approached. “Come now, let’s get out of the wind before I blow away. I’ll need a nice cuppa while we get to know each other.”
David returned her greeting and put his backpack in the trunk, or boot, as she referred to it. He had to push the passenger seat all the way back and still his 5’10 frame was a tight fit. Another example of how cars in Europe seemed so much smaller than their American counterparts. Luckily for him it was only a ten minute ride to her home. She pulled into a gravel drive of what David could only describe as a typical English cottage. It was made from brick and had a homey look about it. The peaked eaves, wooden shutters and tall chimney stack were trademarks of this style house.
Dr. Charlotte led him inside and showed him around the ground floor. There was a large kitchen with plenty of cupboards. A nice living room with a massive stone fireplace as the focal point. At some point in time the dining room had been opened up to the kitchen and the wall separating the living room and kitchen had been partially removed to open up the space. There was a small bedroom and bath on that level as well.
“That’s my bedroom there, these old knees gave up on the stairs long ago. I have a girl who comes in and sweeps and dusts up there once a month, so it shouldn’t be too bad as she was just here last week. There are clean sheets and towels in the linen closet in the hallway up there. The bedroom to the right is all ready for use. The other one is full of boxes and such that needs to be sorted out. The bathroom will be all yours as well.” She told him, and then added, “Go on upstairs and tend to your things. I’ll put the kettle on.”
David nodded. He had learned early on during his stay in Europe that when anyone, especially in the U.K. said they’ll put the kettle on, you didn’t bother to tell them you weren’t a tea drinker, or worse, you preferred coffee. He just hoped she had a few flavored options, he had actually grown fond of orange pekoe.
David climbed the rather narrow staircase that led upstairs. The bannister was beautifully carved wood. It looked like it was possibly walnut. There were worn spots on the wooden stairs, remnants of generations past. At the top of the stairs there was a full bathroom to the right and when he looked in he saw an old fashioned clawfoot porcelain tub. He was happy to see a showerhead and curtain that could be drawn around the tub. So many places that he had stayed had only had a tub. The toilet was in the corner next to a sink and small cupboard. Instead of a flush handle, there was a cord hanging from the pipes leading upward from the back of the commode that one pulled in order to flush.
He peeked into the bedroom to the left of the stairs. It wasn’t too big, the ceilings were sloped and it was indeed filled with storage boxes and odds and ends of furniture. It would most likely take a couple of days to sort out, especially if he had to haul it all downstairs for Dr. Charlotte to go through.
He went down to the other bedroom, which while larger, still had the sloped ceiling. This room, however, had two twin beds that had been pushed together. He could see where someone had clamped them together at the bottom in order to create a king bed. The bed took up more room, but the size of this room still allowed for a nice highboy dresser and a small nightstand. He plunked his backpack on the foot of the bed and took out the clothes he had packed. He travelled light so it didn’t take very long to get everything put away. He set his kit with his toiletries in the bathroom. He’d need to pick up soap and some more toothpaste at some point.
David went back downstairs to see what Dr. Charlotte had in store for him. She was in the kitchen seeing to the tea. “I know you probably prefer coffee, which I will pick up at the market tomorrow, but for now you can choose what you like for tea. I always have a variety. I never was fond of regular tea. My Mum always put a pinch of cinnamon in with her tea and I followed suit. Feel free to take whatever tickles your fancy, young David.” she told him.
David noticed that there were several bags with loose tea leaves. One was marked orange pekoe, but he had no idea how to fix it. Dr. Charlotte saw the dilemma reflected in the expression on his face.
“Is it the orange that you fancy?” she asked. David nodded. She then proceeded to scoop a measure out into a round metal ball with holes. He had seen them before, but never connected it with tea making. She dropped the ball into a steaming mug of water and told him to let it steep for a few minutes.
There was a tray of shortbread cookies, or biscuits as they say, that Dr. Charlotte had laid on the table with some fresh fruit. Once they had their tea squared away she indicated David to have a seat.
“So what type of doctor were you Dr. Charlotte?” David asked as he took a bite of the cookie she placed on his plate.
“A sex therapist.” she replied.
David almost choked.
Dr. Charlotte looked amused. “I love to see people’s reactions when I tell them that.” she giggled.
David realized later that that particular day was the beginning of one of the most meaningful friendships of his life. They spent the rest of the afternoon getting to know each other. David told her about his kids and his work. He didn’t mention TC or anything about their relationship, although he had a feeling she would find out eventually. She had one of those types of personalities that was comfortable and easy going. It was probably why she had been well respected in her field.
Over the few days, they fell into a routine. They were both early risers and Dr. Charlotte would fix breakfast, while David gathered whatever tools and supplies he would need for the day. After breakfast he would work on whatever task needed to be done. It took him the better part of a week to strip the floors of all the old wax, scrub them down, clean them, apply new wax and then buff the hell out of them until they shone. Dr. Charlotte had an old fashioned buffer and he felt like he was manhandling a jackhammer when he used it. When he was done they looked like brand new floors had been put in. Ms. Charlotte had taken before and after pictures and David was amazed at the difference.
After dinner each evening David got into the habit of sitting in the living room with Dr. Charlotte to chat. She had led an interesting life. She told him that she had been born in 1931 and grew up on a sheep farm in Wales. She could remember taking in various “cousins” during WWII. They were far enough out in the country that the war seemed far off to her pre-teen and teenage self. When the war ended her father moved them outside of London. Work was booming and she was able to finish her education. She went on to university and decided to study psychology. She originally thought that she could specialize in what would now be referred to as trauma therapy. She had met a group of older women who had been nurses during the war and had experienced much of the same ‘shell shock’ as many of the soldiers. Now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, back then then the stigma surrounding the diagnosis was a huge hurdle in many people’s lives. In the course of her studies she met a fellow student who would later become her husband.
Peter Tinsdale introduced her to the novel idea of sex therapy. She had grown up rather sheltered, whereas Peter was a city boy through and through. His parents were ahead of themselves in the day and had raised Peter with a very open mind. There was nothing that they wouldn’t discuss with him. Charlotte quickly became enamoured by Peter and he with her as well. He introduced her to the world of sex and its various nuances, which fascinated her. The university they attended was the only one in England that had a psychology curriculum dedicated to sexual therapy. She changed her courses and lo and behold earned her degree. She and Peter married shortly after graduation and both landed positions at a practice in London that was looking to expand its offering of new therapies. They worked under the tutelage of a knowledgeable doctor who had spent a couple of years in the US working at the Kinsey Institute in Indiana not long after it was founded by Dr. Alfred Kinsey, before returning to London and opening the practice that she and Peter gained experience from.
Sex therapy was still a relatively new concept and most people were hesitant to embrace it. Peter and Charlotte eventually established their own practice and it gradually expanded into a multifaceted facility that included marriage counselling, family therapy and trauma therapy. The advent of the 1960’s and the Sexual Revolution saw their practice take off.They ran the practice successfully until 2003 when they sold it to one of their partners. It was still going strong under his guidance. Peter passed away in 2010, but Charlotte said they were able to enjoy six years of retirement, travelling all over the world.
She moved to Watchet in 2011 when one of her cousins passed away and left this cottage to her. That had been a few years ago and she enjoyed the relaxed pace of the sleepy seaside town. She and Peter had never had any children which is why she needed help around the house.
David found himself opening up to her as she was so easy to talk to. By the beginning of the second week she knew that he was gay and into BDSM. He also found himself opening up about TC. At first he found it difficult. Charlotte had to coax him into revealing bits and pieces about their relationship.
They had been sitting quietly one night, sipping on some whiskey that he had picked up in town when Dr. Charlotte laid it all out and said “David, I’m not getting any younger. If you want to get your head on straight you’re going to have to tell me everything, no matter how much it hurts. I promise you, I will help you pick up the pieces, but you have to show them to me first.”
David knew she was right and decided to just rip the band aid off. He started out hesitantly, but then gathered steam. He started with how they met in college, lost touch, reignited their friendship, deciding to explore being submissive, scene playing, play party at Mile’s and Andi’s, and how he realized that he was getting attached to TC. He had to take a deep breath when he got to their last time together and what happened, how he gave so much to TC and subsequently freaked out. He was crying when he relayed how torn he was realizing that he was in love with TC and finding out TC felt the same. By the time he got to the part about breaking up with TC, he was hanging on by a thread. It took everything he had not to dissolve into a hot mess.
The thread snapped when Dr. Charlotte told him “It’s OK to let it out David.” as she sat next to him. He broke down sobbing and actually allowed Dr.Charlotte to comfort him. For all of her four foot something of stature, she was a rock. She held onto him as he sobbed like he had at the hotel room when he first landed.
When he had finally ridden out the wave of anguish, Charlotte handed him a box of tissues and let him sit up. David wiped his eyes and blew his nose before taking a deep breath and blowing it out slowly. He felt his world tip back somewhat toward an even keel.
Dr. Charlotte smiled at him and said softly, “You were incredibly overwhelmed by everything weren’t you? Tell me David, when TC was holding you after you let go of everything, after your post coital bliss, what was the first thing you remember feeling? Not thinking, what did you feel?”
David closed his eyes, allowing his mind to look back for the first time and then answered honestly, “Safe. I felt safe. TC had me wrapped up in a blanket and his body and scent surrounded me. I felt so safe.”
“And then what happened?” Dr. Charlotte asked.
Closing his eyes again, David replayed the memory and relayed “I looked at TC and saw absolute contentment on his face. It was as if he was experiencing one of those rare, perfect moments that you want to hang onto forever.”
“When did reality come back into play? Dr. Charlotte prompted.
“When I realized the look on his face was the look of a man in love and he called me ‘his love’ in Greek.” David replied. “I don’t think he even realized he said it.”
“What made you start doubting what you had?” Dr. Charlotte was not going to let up on him.
David had to really look inside to a place in his head that he was reluctant to go. He finally answered, “I kept thinking about how TC looked, how having me give in so completely made him so happy. I realized that I had to give up a part of myself in order to get to that place, to let myself sink into that mindframe. I had absolute trust in him and that scared the shit out of me.”
When David hesitated, Dr. Charlotte pressed, “What scared you the most David?”
“Everything. I was scared I was losing the person that I was. I was scared of needing someone so badly. I was scared of losing my independence. I was scared I wasn’t ME anymore.” David’s voice wavered as he uttered those words. In a whisper he added, “I was afraid I could never be enough for TC.”
Dr. Charlotte patted his back soothingly and told him, “That was good David, you needed to face those memories head on. Now tell me, when was the last time you let your Dom out to play?”
David had to think before answering, “Probably a couple of months before I ran into TC at the hotel.”
“I think you need to reestablish your mental relationship with that part of yourself. You’ve let it stagnate for far too long. I know that you think that there’s no hope for a future with TC and whether or not that’s true is not for me to decide. You two have a major hurdle in your way and whether or not you can find a way to conquer it is between you two. If you can’t then you need to get back to who you really are, a Dominant, and move forward from there. Have you spoken to him since you flew the coop?”
David shook his head. “No, I text him once or twice a week to let him know that I’m alive and not stranded somewhere. He always texts me back so I know that he’s OK too.”
“That’s probably for the best at this point. I doubt that he’s OK, but I understand what you mean. What you need is to take a weekend and go let your Dom out to play. There’s a club in Bristol that would be perfect for you, more of a seasoned crowd. You can take my car, tell the DM that I sent you and you’ll be given a guest pass. I’ll write down the address of a nice B&B. Tell Molly hello for me and that you want the blue room. It’s on the west side of the house so the sun won’t wake you up first thing in the morning. Her rates are quite reasonable, plus she’s within walking distance to the club.
“I can’t take your car for the weekend and leave you without transportation.” David protested.”
“Nonsense. I don’t like driving and if I need something, one of the lads in town will be more than willing to run it out to me. You’ve been doing a damn good job around here and you deserve a break. I won’t take no for an answer.” she countered.
David sighed, knowing this was one battle he would lose if he tried to decline her offer.
It's funny, most of this chapter was written well before part 1 was even halfway done. Dr.Charlotte bullied me me until i wrote her down. I just love how sometimes a character can completely take over.