This is my first submission so all comments will be gratefully received.


Edward manoeuvred the Crossley into the small garage off Wallgrave Road. It had originally been designed for small carriages so the large tourer was a snug fit. It helped that the top was down; he found it so much more difficult when he had to squint out of the small rear window and had, on a number of occasion, hit the back wall as marks on the bumper showed. It had been a glorious drive home, the warm August sun beat down on him and there was promise of more to come over the following days. As he shut the doors of the small mews garage he breathed a deep sigh. Whilst his work was not especially difficult — he did work for his uncle’s bank — it was good to able to return home to his own house.

The house was not in the most fashionable area of London but it served its purpose well. As the underground railway expanded so London was spreading out. His parents may own a large town house in Belgravia but he was more than happy with this property. Earls Court was a developing neighbourhood — he had heard that there were plans to develop the old showground nearby. He had bought the house as soon as he and Alice had been married. She had not been able to bring much in terms of breeding to the marriage — a fact of which his father reminded him on regular occasions — but he loved her. Well, he thought he did. As he opened the front door, he felt a twinge of guilt over what their marriage had become after only 8 months. Stepping into the hallway he was greeted by Mrs. Peters. They didn’t keep many servants. In fact, Mrs Peters only came in to cook, bringing her daughter, Elsie to help with the cleaning. However, this evening Mrs Peters was looking concerned.

“Yes, Mrs Peters, what is it?”

“It’s your wife, Sir.”

“My wife? What’s happened to her?”

“Oh nothing like that, Sir. She’s..in there.”

Mrs. Peters gestured towards to the sitting room at the back of the house. Edward put down his briefcase and moved towards to door. As he entered he saw his wife sitting on a chair, staring out of the French windows to the garden beyond.

“Alice…darling, what’s the matter? Mrs. Peters said…”

She turned toward him and he saw the unmistakable signs that she had been crying. With a crack in her voice she asked him, “Don’t you know?”

“Know? Know what?”

She gestured towards the table. He saw there was a copy of today’s Times folded to show one story. He picked it up and read the headline ‘VALENTINO DEAD. AMERICA MOURNS FILM IDOL’. Later, he would regret what he said next but, now, it was his first thought.

“But darling, he’s just…”

She knew she would scream if he said what was already implied.

“…an actor.” Alice screamed. As she screamed, the tears returned, unbidden, to her eyes, dripping onto her cheeks. She stood up and rounded on him.

“You don’t understand! You never understand!”

Still crying, Alice pushed by him and ran out the door. He heard her footsteps as she fled up the stairs. He paused before turning and returning to the hall. As he did so, he saw the kitchen door close quietly and knew that little episode had been witnessed by Mrs Peters. He looked up towards the closed bedroom door but then turned and entered the study. His wife was clearly in no mood for conversation.

Dinner that evening was a strained affair. Alice sat at the opposite end of the table and made no eye contact with her husband. Since fleeing upstairs she had cried some more but now simply had red rings around her eyes. As her husband inspected his food she glanced at him. How had their marriage come to this so quickly? She knew she was not what her husband’s family would have wanted. Whilst her husband had a title, the Hon. Edward Stanbridge and would one day be Lord Stanbridge, she came from new money. Her family had prospered in the new industrial era in the early years of the twentieth century and, whilst she had no title, her family were more than financially secure. However, part of her was still a little girl from a provincial town and, like so many provincial town girls, she loved the cinema. Often she had to sneak to the picture houses as her husband felt that such entertainment was below people of their standing. She did not care. She laughed at Chaplin and was stunned by Swanson but most of the time she was in love with Valentino. She had seen The Sheik so many times she could run it in her head. On a number of occasions she had dreamed that she was Agnes Ayres being taken in Valentino’s arms and woken to find a surprising warmth between her legs. On those occasions she had drawn close to her husband but he had remained stubbornly asleep. Maybe it was that these films had created an unrealistic belief in what marriage would mean but she felt, often, that it was simply a disappointment. On the occasions when her husband had made love to her, it had been perfunctory, messy and unsatisfying. The women she saw in the films seemed to sink into the arms of their lovers in exotic locations. For her, it seemed that sex was, as the vicar had said, for the continuance of mankind and took place with no interaction in a darkened room at night. She had begun to see why so many of the actors and actresses she admired seemed to take a number of lovers.

From the other end of the table Edward glanced up at his wife. She seemed to be lost in a reverie. He felt he should say something but he did not know what. Not for the first time, he regretted that he had never really known a woman. His mother was a distant figure and his nanny was not someone to whom you could warm. He had two younger brothers but no sisters or even female cousins, certainly not ones he saw on anything like a regular basis. That’s not to say he knew nothing about sex. In the dying months of the war, when he had finally been old enough to sign up, he heard the conversations that the junior ranks had about women but he never liked to hear words like ‘fuck’ and ‘screw’ used in these situations. There had even been one occasion when a young Belgian girl had lifted her skirt and allowed him to lose his virginity but he hated the memory of her cold, unfeeling eyes. She hadn’t been a prostitute but he felt that he needed to leave a few francs on the side as he sneaked from her room that night. Alice was different; he knew she stirred something within him. She had, since the first moment he had met her at Cousin Lionel’s wedding. But that was the emotional side of marriage. He could manage that — just. It was the physical side he found so difficult. Alice told him she had been a virgin when they married and he had wanted their love-making to be special but something held him back. He had not enjoyed it and he was pretty certain she had not either. Occasionally, he had felt her hands on him in the night, as if she wanted him but he had feigned sleep and she had soon left him alone. He knew he could never match up to the film actors she so much admired but deep down he knew he must try. Otherwise he could see their marriage ending up as cold and loveless as that of his parents. He knew that both his mother and father had lovers and hated them both for it. He knew he must do something if he and Alice were not going to finish the same way.

Edward’s cutlery clattering onto his plate and the scraping of his chair made Alice lift her head. Their eyes met. Edward stepped towards her but said nothing. Alice didn’t move, her eyes just fixed, blankly, on the spot he had vacated. Fleetingly, he rested his hand on her shoulder then turned and walked quickly from the room. Alice looked down as her tears started to fall once again.

The following day, a Thursday, was as bleak as any Alice could remember. From the moment she had felt Edward rise from their bed to go to work to the moment she retired back to bed that evening she neither saw nor heard from her husband. She had walked for what seemed like hours in the afternoon, the hot sun a stark contrast to her mood. Buying a paper, she sat on a park bench and read of the crowds filing passed Valentino’s coffin in New York, of Pola Negri fainting and having to be carried away. She dabbed at her eyes once again. She knew it was pathetic. In fact, she was almost as angry with herself for this ridiculous over-reaction but then thought back to Edward’s cruel words of the previous evening. When Alice returned home that afternoon Mrs Peters had a message from her husband. Something had ‘come up’ and he was unlikely to be back early so she may as well go to bed. After a lonely supper, that was exactly what she did.

Lying in bed in that empty house she thought once again of Valentino, not just as the Sheik but as Juan in Blood and Sand and, especially, Julio in The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Oh my, that tango he did could stir even the coldest soul. As she lay there, picturing him dancing in those Buenos Aires backstreets, her hand strayed unbidden to the growing warmth between her legs. Through the material of her thin Summer night gown she pressed against the wiry hair that hid those parts meant only for her husband, revelling in the feelings produced. As she pressed harder a light moan escaped from her lips. The noise brought her back to reality. She stopped, feeling she was doing something wrong although she did not know what. Banishing thoughts of Valentino from her mind, Alice rolled over and, despite an unsatisfied feeling in her stomach, quickly fell asleep.

Waking the next day, Alice knew this was the day when she would have to confront her husband, would have to get him to treat her with something more than contempt. As she sat up in bed she was astounded to see that it was already 9.30. The sun was shining through the curtains. The dip in the bed next to her told Alice her husband had been there but she did not remember his presence from the night. Why had Mrs Peters not woken her? She jumped from the bed and the thump as she landed on the floor made her realise how quiet was the house. She went to the door, opening it nervously. She was almost prepared to find that, in the night, her husband had stripped the house of all chattels, leaving her penniless in an empty shell. But no, everything seemed to be in its place. In the bathroom, she quickly washed and, returning to the bedroom, pulled on her undergarments and a light Summer dress to match the weather.

Hurrying down the stairs, she sensed an emptiness about the house. She looked into the kitchen but there was no sign of Mrs Peters or her daughter. In fact, there was no sign of anything: no breakfast, nothing cooking for later in the day. By now, Alice was becoming nervous. She was no fan of some of the more disturbing films that starred Lon Chaney or had emerged from Germany in recent years but she had spoken with Edward regarding Mr. Wells’ book about an invasion from space. Surely…no, she was now being silly. However, she did move quickly to the front door to ensure there were people outside and they were not fleeing London. When she looked out, everything was as it should be.

Suddenly, she heard a noise. What was it? A muffled cough? A scraping chair? Alice was not certain but she knew where it came from — the dining room, the location of that pitiable scene of two nights ago. Was it a burglar, forcing entry through the French windows? Slowly, she moved to the door and grasped the handle. She turned it but, as she did so, the door was torn from her grasp, rough hands grabbed her, dragging her into the room and the door was slammed behind her. She staggered into the middle of the room, fearful of what would now happen to her. Even now, was Mrs Peters lying murdered somewhere? As these thought raced through her mind she stopped and looked around the room. This was not her dining room. All around the room, draped floor to ceiling, were lengths of cloth, silk by the look of it. The sun that usually beamed through the French windows was filtered through the material, bringing an unusual duskiness to the room. The dining room table had gone…where? She had no idea. The only furniture she could see was the chaise longue that normally lived in the drawing room and a table which had Edward’s gramophone upon it. All this flashed through her mind in seconds as she turned to see her assailant, determined to fight him off but the breath was seemingly sucked from her body. It was Valentino! Actually, no, it wasn’t Valentino himself. It was the character she had dreamed of so many times: the Sheik and, underneath those Arab robes was surely…


“Silence, woman!” From the figure that stood before her emerged a strong, powerful command that she knew she must obey. “You have trespassed into my domain where no woman is allowed. I may have to kill you…or perhaps take you as one of my harem.”

Alice did not know what to do. It seemed as if the entire world was mad! She opened her mouth to speak but, once again, she was hushed by the imposing figure in front of her.

“I told you to be silent! Now, come here and let me look at you. I will see if you are worthy of being one of my women.”

Alice felt herself drawn by the voice. As she reached him, the Sheik reached out and grabbed her chin. He lifted it, inspecting her face and then turned her, observing her body from every angle.

“Yes, very pleasant.” The words were almost murmured. She felt the Sheik behind her, his body pressed close to hers and a frisson of excitement ran through her body. She had thought she knew this person when she first saw him but now she was not so sure. Was this really her Edward? This seemed more like the figure who emerged from her nocturnal fantasies. He clutched her shoulder and whispered in her ear. “So, my European interloper, your looks please Ahmed Ben Hassan…” Alice gasped, hearing the name of her fantasy figure uttered aloud. “…but what else can you offer? Only women who please me can ever hope to become my wives. Shall we see what I can find?”

In one move, Alice was spun around to face her attacker…or was it seducer?…and saw, glittering in his hand, a bright, curved, silver dagger. Once again she gasped and drew back. Had she misjudged the situation? Had her first panic-fuelled thought been correct and she was about to breathe her last? However, the hand that reached out did not strike her. Instead, it grabbed the thin material of her Summer dress.

“Let us see what else you have to offer.”

Carefully, the sheik cut through the scooped front of her dress and then replaced the knife in the scabbard hanging from the knotted rope around his waist. Before she had time to question, his two hands grabbed either side of the cut so recently made and tore the dress from top to bottom! A cry came unbidden from Alice’s throat. Whilst the dress was not a favourite she could not believe that it had just been ripped from her body. The sheik grabbed the shoulder straps and slid them down Alice’s arms. The dress, now with no shape to hold it together, slipped to the floor, leaving Alice in her undergarments. She did not know what to do with herself. Part of her felt she should cover up but a growing feeling within her loved the way the sheik — her sheik — was commanding her. She looked up, staring him right in the eye.

“Do you treat all your women this way?”

“Only those who enter in my private sanctum. Do not question me, western woman. What is your name?”

Alice wanted nothing more than for this to continue so replied, “Alice. It’s Alice.”

“So Alice…” He paused, revelling in her name. “I have removed your thin western dress. Do I have to do the same for your laughable undergarments?”

Alice could not believe what she was hearing. Did he really expect her to take off all her clothes? As he repeated his question, it was clear that he did. Quickly, she moved to her top. It was a thin Gossard slip that simply covered her breasts which, she was always pleased to say, were small but perfectly round, matching the fashions of the day. As she did as he bade her, the sheik walked around her body, continue to view her from all angles. She dropped the slip on the floor and stood up, her arms crossed over her breasts.

“You still have more to remove, my dear.” The sheik had a laugh in his voice.

Alice slipped her hands in the waistband of her silk bloomers and slowly, nervously, slipped them down her legs. She straightened up. She could not believe it. She was standing in the middle of a room she had always believed was her dining room but now seemed more like a fantastical eastern tent, wearing nothing but a smile. The removal of her bloomers had confirmed something else: this was no longer frightening. In fact, the feeling between her legs told her she was finding it very exciting. Looking at her sheik, she saw, for a fleeting moment, the persona of her husband show through and then, with a shock she realised. This was undoubtedly the first time he had seen her naked. All those previous fumbles in the dark, he had never previously had a chance to see her body. In fact, on a number of occasions, her nightgown had just been bunched up around her waist, something she had found most uncomfortable. Before she had time to say anything she could see the sheik had returned. He stroked his chin as he looked her up and down.

“Very nice, Alice.” He pronounced her name ‘Aleess’, adding to the unreality of the situation. “Now let us see you put your body to use. You will dance for me.”

He moved quickly to the gramophone and lifted the needle onto a shellac disc. From the small horn emerged the sounds of the east, the sounds Alice had sometimes heard mimicked by the accompanists for the films. In the better theatres they occasionally had orchestras! These sounds seemed to add to the mystical feeling inside this silken tent.

“Dance, my creature. Let me see you dance!”

At the sheik’s command Alice started to move her body. She had been to dances with Edward in the early days of their courting and had always enjoyed the more upbeat numbers. Recently she had even tried this new dance from America, the Charleston, which always left her short of breath! However, she knew this was not the time for that. Slowly she swayed her body from side to side, allowing her hips to gyrate. She revelled in the feeling as her thighs brushed together. She placed her hands on her hips and started to draw them up her sides. Lost in the reverie, she closed her eyes.

Almost immediately she felt the sheik behind her. He placed his hands over hers and joined with her, their bodies swaying together. She guided their hands upwards and almost gasped as he cupped her breasts in his hands, stroking her now firm nipples with his thumbs. They remained in that position, gently moving together for a few minutes. Her head rested back on his shoulder. The record came to an abrupt end, replaced with the jarring sound of the needle going round and round on the closing groove. The sheik whispered in her ear, “Go and lie on the chaise longue, my dear.” She did not need to be asked twice. The sheik removed the needle from the disc and stepped towards her. Alice was half lying, her legs slightly parted, her eyes fixed on him. Slowly, he undid the cord around his waist, dropping it to the floor. His robes fell open, revealing his nakedness beneath. She could see his manhood, already tumescent and, just as Edward had seemed taken aback to see Alice’s naked body, so Alice took the few moments to drink in her sheik’s wonderful body.

He sat at her feet and looked her up and down. “My dear Alice, you are a most beautiful creature. Any man would welcome the chance to join with you.” He leaned forward, allowing his fingers to trace patterns on her stomach. She bit her lip, wanting to cry out. Once again he allowed his hands to brush over her breasts, circling her nipples. Alice put her head back, closing her eyes and drinking in the feelings that coursed through her body. She gasped as she felt him lean forward and take one of her nipples in his mouth. She could feel him suck it whilst his tongue teased it, making it harder than she believed possible. She almost sobbed as he removed his mouth and traced lines down her body with his tongue. This was beyond anything she had ever imagined. All her fantasies had never crossed into moments such as this. Suddenly he stopped. Alice opened her eyes. Her sheik, her dear sheik, was looking at the dark hair between her legs. Suddenly she felt awkward. Was he horrified to see these most secret parts so closely? She reached for him, to stroke his face, to reassure him and realised his cheeks were wet with tears.

September 2018
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