I unhooked my bra and paused to consider - as i always do at the unhooking-my-bra point in a relationship - how i had come to be with this particular man, in this particular place, at this particular time.
In this particular case, the man in question had a gentle european accent and at least fifty years seniority over my tender twenty-three. He sat in the corner of my apartment-bedroom, in the comfy armchair i'd inherited from my grandfather. When i say "inherited", Gramps hadn't died, exactly, but he had moved north to enjoy some sunshine, as the twilight of his life began. The chair was too big and too old-fashioned to fit in up north, where Matures like my Gramps spend all their time trying to forget that they are really, really old, and plushly upholstered chairs from an era gone by make that sort of mindtrick difficult.
He suited the chair, this man in my room, his accent silent for the moment, his arms resting on his knees, hands knitted loosely together and hanging between his thighs, watching me disrobe for him.
He was the sort of man who wouldn't fit in up north, either. He didn't seem the sort to be into denial.
It occurred to me right then that he would be about the same age as my quite-into-denial-thank-you-very-much grandfather. Gramps' hair was almost all gone, though - no denying that! - and this man still had thickish hair, if somewhat receding from each temple, in the european manner. It was that head of hair that made him look younger than Gramps, which was just as well. It would have been a bit creepy to have felt like i was getting all naked and frisky for a man old enough to have dandled me on his knee when i was but a wee bairn in a cotton napkin.
But, in reality, that was exactly what i was doing: preparing myself for sex with a man whose children would have to be as old as my parents.
Not that there's anything unusual in such an arrangement, of course: younger girl, older gent is quite the fashion. It's all about spring, autumn; innocence, experience; enthusiasm, wisdom; flexibility, technique.
Actually it's not about fashion at all. It's a simple fact of life. So simple, it's a story that can be told in numbers.
We all knew those numbers, despite there being lots of them, parading across our newsmedia with a deadening frequency. The most salient of all those figures - in the room where i was taking off my clothes - was the blunt numerical fact that more than seventy percent of the population was older than sixty, and fewer than ten percent was younger than thirty...
After a while, you can convince yourself that it's not only normal, but somehow natural to be having sex with someone your grandfather's age.
In fact, it was so normal for me that this would be the twelfth time i'd been in a relationship with someone too old to raise an erection, let alone achieve penetration.
Which is a real pity, because i'm a huge fan of penetration.
I wish there was more of it to go around.
But nowadays odds are while a girl will be more likely to find herself with someone equipped with decades and decades of experience in how to pleasure a woman, all that wisdom will have outlasted his ability to apply it firsthand.
So we do this instead.
I unslung my bra straps from my shoulders and peeled the lycra cups off of my boobs, first left, then right. Very methodical. I try to be as detached and scientific about this sort of sex as possible. I like to think to myself that the sessions i have with Matures are training, for when i finally settle down with a Breeder, so i approach each session like a scientist, gathering data.
My nipples, however, are on their own agenda, and are fully erect and expecting some nuzzling, even before they're freed into the cool, late afternoon air of my bedroom.
"Nice," the old man in the Gramps chair murmured in that accent of his. "You have very lovely nipples."
I smiled as coquettishly as i could, my scientist act totally blown, and thanked him for the compliment. I switched from scientist to sex kitten, stretching in as feline a way as i could manage. This gave what i knew (from the advice and tutelage of various previous Matures) to be a visually pleasing elongation to my slender frame, and a flattering elevation to my meagre-but-pert breasts.
Matures really, really enjoy elongation and elevation in a woman, on account of how the women their age - the post-sexual women they generally ignore in favour of we younger lasses - are universally dumpy and droopy.
Their minds are perfectly clear and functional, these Matures, thanks to the wonders of medical science, and their bodies are disease free. Medical science cannot, however, do anything about the slow degeneration of skin, muscles, tissues, tendons.
It seems a cruel irony that Matures are just as mentally with it as we are, but that they're trapped in crumbling bodies.
I often wonder to myself if Matures would be quite as decrepit physically if they cycled, the way we younger folks routinely do. Some physical exercise would have to be good for them, in place of taking the horsetrams to get about everywhere as they do.
But you hardly ever see a Mature on a bike. Not even the pneumatically enhanced, servo-assisted robo-bikes designed to compensate for arthritic joints and the general loss of muscletone that comes with senescence.
Matures just seem to hate bikes.
Which was why it was so strange that the first time i met this man, Arno, i discovered he knew so much about bikes.
It was freaky.
I'd had a terrible commute. I'd been changing lanes on the veloway when, without any warning, my bike's gears shredded themselves at eighty kay as i clicked down to pass a slow-moving jerk with earphones in.
By the time i'd safely coasted through oblivious and abusive traffic to the verge, the chain was in tatters, and i'd lost a considerable amount of paint, too, from where that unruly chain had flailed about.
I stood in the gravel and took out my iPocket, to look around for the nearest mechanic. I found one not too far from where i was standing, but then i felt something trickling down my leg. Somehow i had torn a gash in my thigh in all the chain-flailing excitement, and i was bleeding in the sort of way that makes you want to get home right now and worry about everything that's not bleeding later.
So i pushed and carried my broken bike the last two kilometres home.
No-one stopped to help. A few times i heard the ticking of a bike coasting up behind me, dropping out of the flow, but when they saw the blood running down my leg like a disastrously unexpected period, there was the ka-chunk of the crank being re-engaged, and yet another would-be hero swished past me without even a backwards glance.
You'd think that a damsel in distress would be an opportunity too good to pass up in these days of penetration scarcity, but i suppose all that blood made it look like too much hard work.
When i finally clattered up to my apartment building, Arno was standing there, leaning against the wall like he was waiting for someone. He looked at me limping up with my rolling wreck in a way that made me feel like we'd met before. He seemed weirdly familiar, like i'd known him for ages, even though i'd never set eyes on him before that very moment.
It was probably his hair. He had very familiar hair.
"Looks like you've got a bit of trouble there," he said, in that accent of his. There was no pity or sympathy; it was like it was only to be expected, all the blood and ruined machinery. He took his weight off the wall and i stopped my painful limping progress while he lumbered up to me with his rolling, bow-legged sailor's gait.
We clearly had something in common: leg issues.
He examined the bike, leaning forward as much as his worn-out tendons and fragile spine would allow.
What now, i wondered.
I just wanted to get inside my apartment. I was perspiring in a most unladylike manner from having to walk all that way, and my thigh was slicker with blood than i was happy for it to be. My head felt like it was stewing in my helmet, and i could tell just by their clammy feel that my slicks were wet through with sweat, revealing much more of the details of my thinly concealed anatomy than i was prepared for some perfect stranger - however familiar - to be privy to.
"That is a pretty mess, young lady," he congratulated me. "What do you know about the master link?"
I looked at him blankly, ready to thank him for his kind interest and then push my bike the last few metres to its hook, go upstairs, strip off my soggy, skintight riding slicks and step into a long, luxurious, muscle-easingly hot vapour.
"On the chain?" he was persisting, pointing with a gnarled and knotty finger. "The master link on the chain?"
I shook my head, contemplating taking off my helmet to frighten him away with my shocking helmet-hair. "Knowing things like that is what mechanics are for, sir. If you'll excuse me..."
He pulled out a knife and i blanched, in spite of the hot sweat i was in. It was the sort of concealable, closing-bladed knife that had been outlawed back in the Twenties under some chapter and verse of the Terrorism and Assault Legislation. The situation had gone from awkward to shitful in the space of two seconds. My throat and lungs stopped working as i watched his thick gorilla fingers deftly pull at the folding parts of the weapon. I tried to get my eyes to dart about, to find me an escape route, but mostly i was seeing nothing but the cruel eye-gouging spike that now rested in his hand.
"Take this," he said in an encouraging, even affable voice, and offered me the weapon, handle first. When i remained statuesque with fear, he suggested, "It's not going to hurt you."
Not quite knowing what i was doing, i put out my hand, feeling it drift away from me, become less a part of my body. And then - by some uncanny trick of mind transference - i felt the weight of the weapon vibrating with evil in the fingers that had recently been mine. It was warm from his pocket.
That warmth made it feel both more and less sinister at the same time.
"Now," he said, quietly, like i was a horse that might spook, might rear up and take off with screaming passengers in the rattling tram behind it. "If you look - here! - you will see that there is one link, one single spot on the whole chain, where - if you know what you are doing - you can take control of this situation."
I examined the chain, the weapon - his weapon - gripped in my hand, like it was a normal thing to be holding in polite society.
"It's tiny," he told me, holding up two fingers, slightly apart, to show just how tiny. "Like this."
"Hang on," i said, plucking up some crazy courage, my voice still coming from far away, even though it was becoming clear that he was not going to kill me. "I'll just use my iPocket to find a mechanic..."
"No!" he burst out, as if i'd just suggested we should, after all, use the weapon in my hands to go murder a policeman and eat his liver. "We can," he continued, his voice calmer, "work this out ourselves."
He talked me through the not-all-that-complex operation of opening the master link with the spike on his weapon, unjamming and then rethreading the chain through the complex-but-not-complicated gears, and moving the derailleur to allow me the slack to rejoin the master link.
My bike had always just been to me this sleek clockwork of intermeshed metal. Now i could feel it pliable beneath my fingers, like a living creature that i was able to heal with my hands.
I especially liked the way that the derailleur, always so stiff and intimidating, became loosely compliant and bent to my will, once i knew what i was doing with it.
I stood back and looked at my repaired bike as if it had sprung mysteriously up out of the earth. I lifted the rear wheel and gave the pedals a turn. The chain fed through the metal teeth without a murmur, and the back wheel spun with a clockwork tick-tick-tick.
"Well, fuck me!" i laughed, the fear of the pocket weapon completely gone. "It's fixed!"
The Mature put out his hand for the weapon, and introduced himself. "I am Arno," he explained, "Now you no longer need a mechanic."
This was true, but i was still bleeding. It occurred to me that he was more concerned about the bike repairs than the me repairs.
Regardless, he had done me a good turn, so i invited him upstairs for a cuppa or something, to thank him. He demurred.
"No. I'll... catch you later," he said, which seemed to amuse him, and then he went to leave, his duty clearly done.
It was when he turned to go that i suddenly felt that pull you get in the pit of your stomach. The one that ends with you naked in bed, hot and thrashing. You know the one. I was suddenly completely convinced that i had to stop this man from leaving my life, or i would be the poorer for it.
"You don't know anything about dressing a wound, do you?" i asked, flirting shamelessly, desperate to stop him from going. "I have a gash that needs some attention."
He looked at my gash undecided, smiled and waved his hand, and went to continue leaving, like my blood was someone else's business. But then he changed his mind, stopped leaving, turned and smiled at me, and came upstairs. A little awkwardly, he helped me apply a dressing to the wound with his almost useless fingers. Once i was snugly bandaged (i had to fix it up to stop it falling off once his back was turned) things got all social. We talked and talked and talked. He was so charming that i insisted we meet again, for dinner. We hit it off so well at that dinner that we started dating pretty much straight away from then, him taking me to all sorts of places in my own city that i'd never known existed. Mostly they were old places, of course, but he seemed to enjoy nothing better than to see me seeing them for the first time, these ancient places with their tired stones and worn insides.
He was such a sweet old duffer. I found him utterly irresistible. So, naturally, things ran along their usual course, and now, three and a half weeks after that day with the master link, we were finally having sex.
I took off my knickers and folded them neatly in thirds before dropping them on the floor. "Ta-da!" i sang, putting my hands on my hips, crossing my feet at the ankles, and rotating my torso thirty degrees from straight on. That's the way they instruct you to stand, in mag-ezines. It makes you look more classically attractive.
And being naked helps, too.
He regarded me in all my glory with his rheumy eyes, and then he beckoned me over to him.
I crossed the four steps from my bedside to the chair, oozing as much vibrant sexuality as i could manage to project, and stood there before him, again in my ankles-crossed, thirty-degrees-turned-torso arrangement of assets, the stripy light from the dusty venetians lying over my undulations like contour lines.
He looked at me carefully, almost as if he were learning me by heart.
He reached out with his glove-like hand and put his sausage fingers on my hip, holding me. With his thumb he stroked that soft bit of skin between the jut of my hip bone and my delta of venus.
Then he seemed to remember something, took back his soft, bony paw, and said, simply, "Now we begin."
I took those four sexuality-oozing steps back across the room to my brass bed and lay down, waiting for him to start having sex with me.
"You must first caress your breasts," he instructed. "They are beautifully shaped, and you need to enjoy their symmetry..."
So i enjoyed their symmetry for him, and then i "tweaked" my nipples for him, as he instructed. And then we were finished with my boobs, and moving on to my pussy.
Which was nice.
Most Matures spend too long on my boobs. For all their supposed wisdom, most men in their seventies and eighties seem to have forgotten that boobs are really just for feeding babies and looking at. Maybe the odd teenaged girl here and there finds stroking her own boobs an utterly orgasmic turn on, but i certainly don't. He seemed to know that, and we were paying attention to the business end of me much sooner than usual, which i appreciated deeply.
"Your pussy," he lectured, "is a complex system of folds and layers, all of which are woven with nerve endings. We begin by stroking the exterior with our fingertips."
So stroke i did.
"We are going to have a full-vulva orgasm," he promised, like a tour guide, "so you will need to get your whole vulva involved."
That seemed reasonable. I stroked and stroked until i could almost hear myself crackling with static electricity. It was working, all that stroking; i could feel myself getting wetter by the moment.
"This part of you," he continued in that luscious european accent that i'd grown to adore in the hundreds of stories he'd told me in the dozens of coffee shops he'd taken me to, "you stimulate with your bicycle seat, when you crouch low over the bar to get your velocity up. Your labia are compressed and rocked side to side as you fly along, propelled at high speed by the simple machinery of your own elegant legs..."
This was true, and i was thinking of that sensation of flight, and that pressure on my cunt, that private knowledge - although not as private as i thought - that as i shot along the veloway, suspended above the blurring bitumen by only my palms, toes, and labia, that i was stimulating myself to the gateway of orgasm. At his suggestion i stroked my thighs with my other hand, the one that wasn't caressing my pussy.
I could feel my breath picking up as he talked me through exciting the nerve endings in my cycle-tuned thigh muscles.
He was connecting the power i feel in my legs when i cycle with the oscillating frottage of the seat...
I had a feeling i would be thinking about this tomorrow afternoon on the veloway home as i rocked from side to side.
"Now we slide our finger inside of our outer lips," his voice announced quietly. "We use our ring finger, and our middle finger, not our index finger, and we feel the slippery moistness of the inner lips..."
I'd had to pull away my habitually-selected index finger once he'd corrected me. No-one had ever made me use those fingers before, and he was right; it felt a lot better.
"Use your ring finger and middle finger to open your lips," came the next direction. "Feel the moistness around the opening to your vagina, and explore your opening with your fingertips..."
I did as he said, but it felt pretty yucky. Plus, he was using that corny old Mature word: moistness. Just as i was beginning to lose my buzz, he told me to keep my fingers where they were, and to sit up.
"Now you slide those two fingers inside of your opening, and feel the rough corrugations of your interior passage..."
I wasn't sure what he meant. I just felt wet and slippery inside. For a split instant i felt like i might even piss myself.
"You need," he corrected me, "to drop your shoulder, lower your wrist, and keep your palm toward your upper vulva..."
When i dropped my shoulder, i could feel my fingers go in even further, and i could feel what had to be the front wall of my cunthole, which was, indeed, corrugated. Or rough, at least.
"Your other hand, your clitoris," he said simply. "You know what to do there, i am sure..."
I did know, and i did do it.
For some time he didn't say anything. I kept clitting myself and feeling these corrugations that i'd just found inside of me. Orgasm bubbled up from time to time, but then receded again, the way it does on the veloway. I could feel my fingers starting to prune up from immersion in my own liquids, and i wanted him to just take me wherever it was he was taking me. It seemed like it was going to be an interesting place.
"Press into the corrugations," he said, finally, after all that silence. "Until it feels ... good..."
This seemed like a rather vague instruction, but it did feel good. Not fantastic, but good.
"I'm gonna lay down," i told him. He nodded indulgently and i lay down. I looked over at him, and saw that he was deep in thought, like he was trying to remember, or perhaps decide, something. Something important.
"You will find," he said, breaking out of his reverie, "that there is one place, one single spot amongst the corrugations, where - if you know what you are doing - you can take control of this situation."
I closed my eyes and examined the corrugations with my fingers, feeling about for this spot.
"It's tiny," he told me, and i opened my eyes and looked over at him to see him holding up two fingers, slightly apart, to show just how tiny. "Like this."
Then i had to close my eyes again, and open my mouth, and scream.
I'd found the spot.
My body heaved and jerked in an orgasm that reminded me of the time as a teenager when i'd hit a curbing and been thrown from my bike. There was the initial thump of the orgasm arriving, then a feeling like flying, and then a series of full body blows as i rolled and bounced through the shockwaves.
I had never come so powerfully before in my life. It was like Arno knew not only decades and decades of giving women pleasure, but like he knew decades and decades of giving me, personally and specifically, pleasure.
As the orgasmic blows continued to thump into me, i thought i saw through my closed eyes a painfully bright explosion of light. I opened my eyes to see what was happening, but the light was gone.
So too, i realised, was Arno.
But my orgasm wasn't stopping for any flashes of light or disappearing Matures. It continued on its way until it finally shuddered to a stop. I caught my breath after a few expletives and several minutes, and i called out to him. Where had he gone? How could he leave at that moment? What the fuck was he thinking?
I called out to him again, all sorts of heartfelt endorsements of his technique at first, and then diplomatic suggestions that it was only polite to be in the same room as a girl you're making orgasm, but he still didn't come back into the bedroom.
Where the fuck had he gone?
I let the last of the orgasm twitch its way out of my system, like an electrical storm diminishing and moving away over the horizon after blasting steeples and cracking windows. I lay there in the fading light slotting through the venetians. I waited and i waited until i started to feel cold.
I stood up and walked over to the chair where i'd last seen him sitting.
There was a rectangular piece of glass lying there. A rectangular piece of glass about the size of an iPocket.
I picked it up.
The instant i touched it, it became luminously opaque and the familiar Apple logo appeared inside the glass.
A message appeared: "Switching user: Welcome back, Julia". I turned it over in my hand and, for a split second, the back of the glass had the same message on it, but in reverse. Then it flipped right way around.
"Welcome back?" i read out loud. How was this welcome back?
The message changed to read, "Voice match confirmed, privacy access granted" and the glass changed so that it looked as if it had coloured bubbles trapped inside it.
Coloured bubbles with icons on them.
I realised that it was an iPocket, after all. But it must be a prototype or something, because it was so different to the current models. It clearly had that new thing, where two or more people could sync their iPocket accounts onto each other's devices, which was frightfully romantic, but i couldn't remember setting up my account to share with Arno, and that's the sort of thing i would definitely remember.
When i looked closer, it actually said "iPocket" at the top of the glass screens. It had the date and time, too, but the time was wrong and the date was ridiculously fifty years into the future.
That was the thing about these Generation Y Matures. They were always on about how they were the original digital natives and what not, but they still couldn't set the clocks on their iPockets without help. Maybe it was those fat, useless fingers of theirs.
Putting aside that the date and time was wrong, i was pretty impressed with the way the thing could work with no visible electronics.
And then i heard the voice in my head, and i was really impressed.
It was telling me that i had some messages, and two overdue appointments.
As best as i could tell, the sound i was hearing was somehow coming from the iPocket and through my body to my ears.
Somehow. Without earphones.
I pressed my fingertip onto the glass over the bubble with what i took to be the new prototype version of the photos icon, and clusters of images appeared. I pressed on one of these clusters and the first photo appeared.
It was a photo of me.
I was an old woman, but it was clearly, indisputably me.
I looked terrible. Haggard. Sick. Worn out.
My eyes were mostly socket, and my hair a frosted mess, like i'd been painting the ceiling in my sleep.
Even my clothes looked tired.
I flicked through the album.
I had an adult child in there, amongst the bubbles. He was in something that might have been a wheelchair, had it had wheels. His body was agonisingly deformed and misshapen. He looked as if he was in constant pain. There was a photo of his thirty-third birthday, and i was smiling gamely and falsely for the camera, posed with the cake, my adult child in a rictus of agony trying to blow out the candles.
I flicked through album after album, putting the pieces together.
They were mostly photos of me and my tortured, deformed child, these pieces, along with some occasional snaps of my husband and his mechanics' shop.
With just the slightest of flicks of my index finger - the one i had been instructed to not use in frigging myself - i could follow the entire arc of my future life.
I married Arno, we worked hard together to build up his business, i had my monstrous child, and then everything descended into a long, dark, creeping misery.
That was as far as the photos took me. I guessed that if i could access Arno's messages and appointments, that i'd know how he had come back through time, for the chance to make it all go away.
I imagined that Virgin had added time travel to space flight, somewhere up there in the future.
I stood naked in my bedroom, no light on except for the glowing glass i held in my hand, and i let what i'd seen sink in.
Everything made sense, despite it all being quite, quite impossible. A few final pieces had to go into the mosaic, though, and i could provide them myself.
I picked up my own iPocket and held it up, searching around me through the augmentisphere for the mechanic's shop where Arno worked. I found it pretty easily. It was the one i was going to take my broken bike to that first day we'd met.
It was less than two kilometres away. It took me longer to roll on my riding slicks than it took me to ride there.
He was gorgeous, at least as gorgeous as in the photos.
The early photos, that is, until life with haggard me and our sideshow spawn beat him into rueful resignation.
There was no flicker of recognition in his eyes. We had, after all, never met.
He was a different Arno to the one who had come back through time, of course. Since we hadn't met that day when we were supposed to. He'd made sure of that.
He was, for one thing, engaged.
Within thirty seconds of walking into his shop, i'd asked him out for coffee, as is the way with we few young people left on Earth. He laughed, good naturedly. He'd met a girl a month and a half ago, and things had just clicked. He explained this with the openness of the newly in love as he indulgently continued to tinker with my perfectly functioning bike, looking for the vague "thing" that i was lying was wrong with it.
"Really," he grinned in that european accent of his, "i appreciate the compliment, but Hilary is carrying my child, so coffee is out of the question."
He finished pretending to work on my bike, and handed it back to me.
There was nothing for him to fix. Not now.
I wished him all the best with the child, fitted the bikeseat to my still-humming, post-orgasmic vulva, and rode home.
So, haggard me and my demon issue were gone, never to be. Or not that particular demon issue, anyway. I made a mental note to get my genes checked out before i fucked anyone who could manage an actual erection, to see if it was some hidden horror in my DNA that had caused the poor twisted being i had spent an alternative lifetime looking after.
I wasn't so sure that i would have done what Arno had done. I can understand a man flushing away a life like that, but i found myself wondering about that no-more-to-be child of mine...
I was looking forward to reading through the messages and appointments on alternative-future-Julia's iPocket, hoping against hope that she'd kept some sort of diary on it. That would make for some interesting reading.
But, thanks to alternative-future-Arno, i'd just learnt a new trick, and i had me some masturbation to do first.