Natalia shuffled from side to side in her bed, restless and unable to sleep. Normally, she would have no problem sleeping but usually, the News didn’t have her so fearful. The images from Italy kept going through her mind; the faces of people gasping to breathe. China had been a distant place in her mind, but Italy really wasn’t that far from Ireland. Ireland played them at the rugby each year and Irish people regularly went there on holidays. She knew that from work. It was inevitable that the virus would now reach here. She tried to stop thinking about it, it would do her no good as she needed to work the next day.
Despite her difficulties sleeping, she made it into work. It was tough to work behind a bar when you are tired though. The place was bustling as usual with orders for food and drink flying in. But the same topic of conversation was at every table. At one point a chill went down her spine when she heard that a whole region in Italy had just gone into something called a lock-down. It didn’t sound good, She felt like she had been transported into a horror movie.
The first thing she did when she got home was to turn on the news to see the latest developments. Things were indeed as bad as she had feared. The Chief Medical Officer of the country Dr. Holohan said that it was now only a matter of time before there was a recorded case in Ireland. Natalia’s thoughts turned to all the people who were about to die. She thought of her vulnerable neighbours. An elderly couple lived on one side of her and a guy in a wheelchair lived on the other side. She hadn’t interacted with them much till now but she resolved to call into them that night to let them know that she was there if they needed anything. It was the least she could do and it would take her mind off worrying about herself. At least, she would be doing something.
She went to the elderly couple first. Their names were Alan and Mary, both in their late eighties. And wow, could they talk. At first, about the virus then about their grown up children and finally about the forthcoming warm summer they were praying for. Finally, Sabrina managed to say her goodbyes, promising to check in on them if things deteriorated.
Then it was time to check in on the man that lived the other side of her in a row of bungalows. She didn’t know much about him and had only every seen him in the distance since she started renting her house three months previously. It was a very different experience. She buzzed the doorbell and waited. Just as she was about to leave the door opened slightly.
“Sorry, do I know you?”
“Oh! My name is Natalia. I’m from Poland but I live next to you.”
“Oh right! Sorry, didn’t recognize you. Hope you don’t mind but I’m in quarantine with this virus and all.”
“Yes, that is why I am here. In case, you need anything. All you have to do is ring me. Okay?”
With that, she put a crumpled page with her name and number on it through the letter box sensing he didn’t want her close.
“Bye, don’t forget to ring if I can be of help!”
With that, she left.
Sean had watched the nightly news with increasing alarm each night. The virus was getting closer and closer. The death rate was somewhat uncertain, but he knew that for someone in his poor physical health it would be much higher. He already lived the life of a hermit, which was now a good thing. His aide Thelma, a normally dependable woman in her sixties was a concern though. She worked about two hours per day, usually during the mornings cleaning up the house and doing errands for him like getting the shopping. Those two hours were vital. He knew that it was a major vulnerability, not only in that she could carry the virus to him, but also that she might be too scared to come help him. There was little he could do about it though.
As if having become paralyzed through a car accident wasn’t bad enough, now he had to face a pandemic. He wished he had relatives close by in case things went pear shaped but his mother had died during the very same accident and he had never known his father. At times, it felt like nobody else knew he existed.
Still, he tried to put his worries to the back of his mind. But, that became impossible after hearing the Taoiseach’s announcement that night that Ireland was going into lock-down. Nobody was to go to work the next day.
It didn’t take long for his phone to ring. He knew it was Thelma, and this was almost certainly not going to be good news.
“Sean, have you seen the news? They don’t want people to leave their homes. What will I do?”
Her voice was trembling.
“I’ll be okay. Don’t come tomorrow, hopefully we’ll get some clarification on things, if we wait a day or two.”
“Are ya sure?”
“Yes, I am. Talk again tomorrow ok”
With that, the call ended. He immediately rolled over to the kitchen and checked his fridge. There was enough for a day or two. He needed a plan in case he didn’t see Thelma for a while. Then it came to him – that Polish woman, but did he still have her number?
Natalia was cooking a bigos, a traditional stew dish of meat and vegetables from her native Poland. Anything to take her mind off things. It was best just to ignore the crisis, at least for now. The constant worry and fear was too much. Better to do something she loved, even if she was the only one who was going to get to eat it.
Then she heard the buzzing sound of her phone. Thinking that it was probably someone from work looking to talk about the pub being closed, she didn’t bother checking the caller ID.
“Yes, Natalia here.”
“Eh, this is Sean. I live next door to you. You called a few weeks ago.”
For a moment Natalia wasn’t sure who it was. But then she realized.
“Oh yes Sean, how is everything? Do you need my help with anything?”
“Well, you see my PA is not able to come and she usually gets my groceries. And well, I’m not really supposed to leave the house and -“
“You want me to shop for you?”
“Eh yeah, please. That would be great.”
“Okay, I will call over in an hour. You can give me the list and money then.”
“Grand, see you then.”
Natalia put down the phone.
After her meal was cooked and eaten, she wondered if she should go and put on some make-up. She went to the mirror and was less than impressed with what she saw. Her hair was unkempt and her eyes looked dull. She hadn’t worried much about her appearance when she was meeting “the couple” but somehow this felt different. Maybe cause he was a man and much closer to her own age. He actually sounded quite sexy on the phone and anyway it was important to look good. So that was that, her decision was made. If she didn’t hurry though, she would be late and it’s not like she could blame the traffic.
Finally, when she felt presentable she walked out the front door. It was wet and breezy, probably undoing much of her good work getting ready.
Within seconds she was knocking at his front door, feeling an unexpected tinge of excitement.
Sean opened the door more fully this time. Even though a mask covered half of his face, she could tell he was handsome and found herself gazing into his piercing brown eyes He was wearing a denim short and trousers. Now that she could see him better she reckoned he was in his early thirties just like herself.
“Here is the list and thirty euro should cover it.”
He reached out and handed it to her.
“Right, I will come back with your groceries and change once I’m done.”
With that, they gave each other a little wave goodbye.
Sean found himself anxiously waiting for Natalia’s return. He was hungry when she left, but now he was positively starving. Perhaps, he thought to himself, he should have given her a smaller list so that she would return faster. Then his mind quickly switched to how pretty she looked in her mask, with her shoulder length blond hair. The memory of her sweet rose tinted perfume drove his mind wild. Perhaps, he just needed to be round women his own age more. Just as quickly, his mind switched back to food and thoughts of a tasty burger. He could almost taste it.
He switched through the different TV channels trying to find something interesting to take his mind off his predicament but they all taunted him with food advertisements. Then, there was a flicker of light outside emanating from the house next door. His heart started to beat that bit faster as he wheeled towards the front door.
It still took another few minutes before she rang the doorbell giving Sean enough time to put on the all important mask. He hated having to put them on, but it was what was recommended and made him feel that bit safer.
“Hi Sean, here is your shopping. Will I bring it in for you?”
Sean hesitated for a second. It wasn’t ideal for her to enter the house, but he was unsure if he would be able to carry all the stuff inside himself.
“Yeah, brilliant If you could just leave things on the kitchen table for me, that would be great. I’ll just reverse and get out of your way a bit, to keep the two metres.”
With that, she walked past not quite giving him the distance that he had hoped for. It may have been somewhat lost in translation.
Sean noticed that she wasn’t wearing any gloves as she put his second bag down. His Personal Assistant had been wearing them for some time. It almost seemed erotic to see a naked hand. He wondered what it would feel like to touch, would it be cold from being outside? Then the sound of her voice brought him back to reality.
“So, will you be okay now? Your change is there on the table.”
“Yes, that will be fine, thanks a million.”
“Ring me, if you need anything or to talk. It’s good to talk.”
Sean nodded in agreement and with that she left.
It took quite some time for Sean to pack everything away and get something to eat. But, he did enjoy that burger.
As he lay down in bed he decided to send Natalia a text message.
- Thanks so much for earlier. Was a huge help.
Her response was almost immediate.
- No worries, did you cook something nice.
With that, they began to text each other back and forth about their jobs, the pandemic and what food they enjoyed into the late night.
Natalia wasn’t quite sure when it exactly happened that she found herself pining for Sean to text. They had begun texting each other back and forth each day, ostensibly to ensure they were both doing okay, at least that was the charade that she told herself.
But, then she found herself looking forward to receiving them and to think that he only lived next door. At times, she just wanted to tell him that she would just come on over. But the advice was adamant, you were not to mingle with other people. In truth, she would have just ignored that advice if he wasn’t in a wheelchair, making him that much more vulnerable.
She had never been with a disabled man before, all she knew was that he was handsome and kind and that she wanted to wrap her arms around him. Not that she had told him that yet.
- Chat tomorrow x
Her heart fluttered for a moment. Was the “x” too soon, too presumptuous?
- Yes chat then x
What did his “x” mean? Did it mean anything at all?
Oh, this felt like a strange form of torture. She wanted to touch, to put her fingers through his hair. She couldn’t remember quite feeling like this before. Perhaps, her mind was playing cruel tricks on her, in her isolation.
- I’d love to talk face to face, well with the two metres.
- Yeah that would be nice. Maybe out the back. You could talk to me over the dividing wall.
With that, their first date was set for later that day.
The time for meeting was fast approaching and Sean found that his heart was beating faster and that he was breaking out into a cold sweat. He knew that he liked Natalia but did she feel the same way?
What did she think of him being in a wheelchair? He wasn’t good with women, even when he could walk.
They were just having a chat out the back garden. He was way over thinking this. There was nothing untoward or erotic about two neighbours having a chat in their gardens no matter what the guidelines might say. This was what he was telling himself.
And anyway, this wasn’t just any woman he would be meeting, it was Natalia. She was as kind and considerate as she was beautiful. There was nothing for him to fear. Gradually, he found himself becoming more relaxed till it was time to go outside to the great outdoors.
For a few minutes, he was left waiting, but then Natalia’s face appeared over the green hedge with a wide smile.
“Fancy, seeing you here,” he said jokingly.
“Yes, I love my garden so much. I’m here all the time.”
Sean could tell that she had gone to the effort of putting on make-up. Her blonde hair was blowing gently in the breeze.
” So, how was your day?” she asked inquisitively.
“Fine, just finished having something to eat.”
With that the conversation went back and forth, till Sean noticed something strange.
“Are you drinking?”
“Yes, vodka. Do you want some?”
Sean tried to insist that he would be okay but then she went out of view. For a brief moment, he had no idea where she had gotten to. Then he saw his hedge shaking at the bottom of his garden and she appeared with two glasses and a bottle of vodka.
“You have a secret passage-way through the hedge,” she laughed.
She was wearing a tracksuit bottoms and a jumper. As she approached, all thoughts of the virus went out of his head and he quickly accepted some of the vodka.
“Is it not Russians that like vodka, not the Poles?” Sean said mischievously.
“Yes, but we live close to them!”
Sean’s upper body was getting cold now and he knew that his paralyzed limbs would be even colder.
“Let’s go into my kitchen. It’s cold out here.”
“Yes, that is good. Let’s go inside.”
As Natalia entered the house, she thought silently to herself – Wow I can’t believe that I’ve ended up in his house. Everything is so neat and tidy compared to my own house. Sean is looking so good, or maybe it’s just the vodka or that I haven’t been in the company of a man for so long.
At first, they sat at the kitchen table and Natalia poured him a drink.
He drinks slowly, not like her.
“Do you not drink?” she asks inquisitively.
“No, not that much. But on the plus side, at least that means I’ll get drunk really easily!”
“Yes, that is good.”
For over an hour they talked. Natalia then found herself gazing into his big, brown eyes.
“You have beautiful eyes , do you know that?” she suddenly interjected.
Sean’s face suddenly turned crimson.
“Eh thanks, nobody has ever said that to me before.”
“Really, even before the..”
“No,” shaking his head.
“A drunk driver,” he replied solemnly.
Natalia found herself reaching out and holding his hand. It felt so good to touch another human being. His hand was cool.
“Are you cold?”
“We were outside and well, I get cold quickly.”
Without a second thought, she draped her body over him and began to rub his arms. Their faces were beside each other now, and both could feel the warmth of each other’s breath. Then Natalia looked straight at him, into those brown eyes and kissed him. Gently, at first but then harder. Her tongue entered and swirled around his mouth. A few minutes later, her hands reached under his shirt and caressed his surprisingly firm body. Sean then seized the moment and began to rub her breasts, but he struggled to take off her bra, till she obligingly took off her clothes.
He rubbed her breasts gently before licking them and sucking on her nipples, something that has always driven Natalia wild with passion.
He whispered into her ear that he still had sensation in his penis. In her drunken state, it was all that she needed to hear. She took it in her mouth and eagerly licked and sucked, till it grew hard. Then she mounted him, placing it inside her. She was already moist. He was big and slowly they began to grind their bodies, then faster. An orgasm then burst through her body as if it came from her very being. A few moments later, they stopped exhausted.
As they sat down afterwards, the sweat dripping off both their bodies Natalia could only think of saying one thing –
“That was good vodka.”
Sean just grinned in response.