James Holden: Pampas Grass

This is a story of mine that performed at Liars League last year – I don’t think it was brought before the group as it was just when I joined.


“Thank you for the wine – I’ve placed it on the communal table. We’d appreciate it if you didn’t take the bottles around. There are plenty of plastic cups for you to take with you though …”

Jennifer preferred to look out through the open French windows than listen to what their host was saying. It had been another hot July day, and the lounge was basking in the last of the summer’s sun. Outside, pampas grass was swaying in an evening breeze that was bringing Jennifer some relief. As Kevin continued to feed them instructions she surveyed the terrace and the view beyond, the generous sloping garden with browning grass but well-watered plants leading down towards farmland.

“If you want to leave at any time, please find either myself or Molly – we’ve got the key to the hallway cupboard, to make sure that nothing goes astray – not that it’s ever happened.”

Jennifer forced herself to concentrate on what he was saying. She momentarily had visions of their car being driven off by someone else, and cringed at the thought of them having to explain on the insurance forms the precise circumstances of the theft. She would of course have the traditional wifely satisfaction of I told you so to get her through the ordeal, but she couldn’t imagine it would provide much respite for the inevitable embarrassment.

Kevin continued. “Condoms are available in every room.” Jennifer’s eyes wandered down to the antique looking side-table they were stood next to: besides the more traditional pot pourri, a bowl had been set down containing an array of cheerfully coloured prophylactics.

“And finally, we request that you don’t film anything.”

“That all sounds great. We’ve both been really looking forward to this, counting down the days on the calendar, and all that” said her husband eagerly, squeezing her hand as he did a little hunch of his shoulders whilst screwing his eyes shut, mouth drawn out into a grin.

“Speak for yourself,” thought Jennifer, who had definitely not been looking forward to tonight. She had caught Peter on the internet a few weeks ago watching a porn film. Jennifer had stood in the doorway to the office as he lazily masturbated to the scene of a woman sucking on a cock whilst being vigorously pumped from behind. She had occasionally flicked through the collection of pornography that she was supposed not to know about, which almost exclusively belonged to the group-sex genre. Every now and again he had hinted it was something that they could explore together, but she felt unable to get excited about it, preferring to indulge in what she assumed were more traditional female fantasies, such as imagining her husband was Huw Edwards, Trevor Eve or Alfie Boe. Sometimes he would ask “wouldn’t you like another man’s cock to suck on right now?” If she was feeling playful she would respond with “Mmm, can you imagine another woman’s breasts rubbing on your back right now?” Otherwise she would pretend not to hear him and let him carry on with whatever thoughts were in his head.

Having watched enough of the porn film, she interrupted her husband’s onanism by asking “do you reckon they do the Take a Break crossword when they’re not filming?” Spinning round he had caught his erect penis on the office chair arm, howling in pain as she had calmly gone downstairs to put the kettle on. Over the days and weeks, rather than apologise for his behaviour, now that his special interest was in the open he had mounted a significant campaign to convince her that attending a swinging party would be good for the pair of them and put a bit of a spark back into their sex-life.

Finishing his induction, Kevin left them pouring themselves some wine and surveying the scene before them. It was hardly the bacchanalian event that Peter had been looking forward to or that she had feared. They had both imagined writhing bodies, women being spit-roasted, single men mauling two women at once. The only difference had been that in her mind’s eye the flesh on offer had been considerably older and saggier than in his.

Instead, there were eight couples dotted around the room, everyone looking respectable and a bit boring, the democratic white towelling robes making it difficult to display any character or show off beautiful curves or toned chests, and easy to hide dropping breasts and man boobs. Jennifer assessed the men that were on offer, wondering how they viewed her – a piece of meat to be used and abused, someone else’s wife to be conquered, or a potential lover to be seduced. There wasn’t anyone in the room that would make her stop and stare whilst walking down the street – but she hadn’t thought of that as the point of swinging. It wasn’t the prospect of fucking a stunningly attractive member of the opposite sex, it was the prospect of fucking someone else whilst your own wife was kissing you at the same time, or whilst their husband was quietly wanking in a corner.

Fortunately Jennifer’s worst case scenario hadn’t been realised. She had dreaded that someone she knew would be there, and that she would be forced to become a confidante, secrets shared over a coffee in someone’s conservatory – “Have you been swinging recently? I had the most wonderful time last Saturday – I was fucked by three men at the same time. Please could you pass me a garibaldi?”

Jennifer downed the contents of the plastic cup before refilling it generously. Peter steered her over to a sofa, and she demurely crossed her legs whilst he sat with his legs unusually wide. Next to them sat a couple in their mid-fifties. “Have you been here before? This is our first time,” Peter said by way of introduction.

“Oh, we come here once a month,” the man said, “We really enjoy it here. What do you guys think?”

“It’s a beautiful house. The number of times we’ve driven past – I never realised they had such a nice view from the back. And it’s very tastefully decorated. Isn’t this a DFS sofa …?” she said. The others looked at her, silent and Peter rolled his eyes.

The man broke the silence, coughing gently before placing his hand on Jennifer’s knee. “I think a beautiful sofa is only worthwhile if something beautiful is sitting on it …”

Jennifer felt herself blush, and looked at Peter. He looked at her with encouragement, before shrugging and focusing his attention back on the couple.

“Are there many regulars?” Peter asked. Jennifer switched off as the woman started talking, the man leaning forward and placing his hand on her bare calf, working his way up towards her knee before tugging the robe to one side to reveal her thigh.

“I’m sorry, is it hot in here? I need some air,” Jennifer said, getting up and walking out through the French windows.

On the terrace there was a lone man, leaning on the terrace wall and smoking a cigarette. He looked to be in his early thirties, just over six foot, with salt and pepper hair and bright blue eyes. Here was a man who Jennifer would take a second look at if she saw him walking down the street.

“Want one?” he said, pushing the packet along the top of the stonework. She pulled a cigarette out, holding it up to the lighter in his hand until she could draw the smoke into her mouth.

“This is a beautiful spot, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it almost seems a bit of a shame to spoil it with a swinging party rather than something more sophisticated,” he said.

She smiled, inhaling deeply before blowing smoke out her mouth. “I haven’t smoked a cigarette in years.”

“If you didn’t come out for a smoke then, were you trying to get away from someone?”

“It was Peter, my husband, who convinced me to come here tonight, this really isn’t my thing if I’m honest. Are you here alone?”

“My wife is in one of the bedrooms at the moment. She doesn’t always like me to be around.”

“Oh … I’m sorry.”

He shrugged, and Jennifer looked up into his eyes, wondering what his body might be like underneath his white towelling robe, whether she could, whether she should have sex with him here tonight.

“So, do you have sex with people whilst you’re here?” she said, loosening the robe around her breasts slightly.

“When I was growing up, my older brother always told me that the people across the road regularly had fondue parties, which was just code for orgies. I remember my first year of college when I got invited to a fondue party by a girl I really fancied. I thought it was going to be the wildest night of my life, so I was a bit disappointed when it turned out to just be about chucking bits of bread into a pot of melted cheese,” he said, laughing gently.

She giggled and turned towards him. “You see the pampas grass, here? My older sister always warned me that people with pampas grass outside their houses were secretly into wife swapping and stuff like that. So that other swingers would know where they would be welcome.”

Jennifer stubbed her cigarette out on the stonework, before pressing her back into the terrace wall so her tits were thrust further outwards. She opened her mouth to say something, when she was distracted by events inside the lounge. Peter was leaving with the man and woman they had been sat with, his bathrobe flapping open and his erect penis on show and bouncing as he walked towards the bedroom.

She suddenly felt warm again, the wine, nicotine and shame rising in her gut. She collapsed to her knees, grabbing the stranger’s ankles before being sick over his feet, vomit landing on the pampas grass which was swaying gently in the cool evening breeze.


About James Holden

Brought up in Yorkshire, James has washed up on the shores of London. He spends his days working as a political geek. His short stories have previously been read by the Liars League.
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