Blushing at Both Ends

Blushing at Both Ends by Philip Kemp

Book: Blushing at Both Ends by Philip Kemp Read Free Book Online
Authors: Philip Kemp
scarlet bottom I’ve ever seen!
    SCARLETT wriggles round on his lap. Her eyes are full of tears, and she pouts reproachfully at him
    SCARLETT: Oh Rhett, that was cruel! How
    RHETT: Oh, very easily, my darling. And, if necessary, I could just as easily do it again.
very softly
]: Brute!
    Her arm goes around his neck. She pulls his face down to hers and their lips meet in a passionate kiss
    FADE IN:
    SCARLETT in bed. She wakes, stretching luxuriantly, then grimaces and reaches round behind her to rub what is still evidently a slightly tender area. A secret, reminiscent smile of pleasure creeps over her face
. . .

    Academic Discipline
    IT WAS A perfect June afternoon in Oxford. The sun, for once, was shining. From the Chapel Quad came the austere click of croquet balls, interspersed with occasional muttered donnish imprecations. Among the college’s ancient stone turrets and spires, pigeons strutted self-importantly or pursued their absurd mating rituals; closer to ground level, undergraduates did likewise. A faint but unmistakable herbal aroma drifted down from the rooms of the Senior Reader in Theology. Altogether, an idyllic scene. Yet as he gazed out through the mullioned panes, Dr Abel Kendrick, Junior Lecturer in Medieval History at Gloucester College, was frowning. It was ten past three, and Louise Gray was late for her tutorial. Again.
    As he watched, Abel saw her come dashing wildly through the college gateway and across the quad towards his staircase, books crammed anyhow under her arm, her tousled chestnut hair flying. For all her haste she ran with a lithe unconscious grace, her breasts bouncing merrily beneath her Glastonbury ’04 T-shirt. Repressing an impulse to smile, Abel retreated to his leather armchair and composed his face into an expression of severe reproof as her hurried knock sounded on the stout oaken door.
    â€˜In,’ he commanded sternly.
    Louise irrupted breathlessly into the room in a flurry of excuses and apologies. Abel hushed her with a gesture and pointed to an adjacent chair. She turned to deposit her untidy mass of books on the desk, offering him a fleeting view of tight-fitting and pleasingly upholstered faded-blue denim, then sank into the chair, sitting respectably upright with her knees together.
    â€˜Dr Kendrick,’ she began, hesitantly.
    This was something serious – more serious than ten minutes’ lateness. Usually she called him ‘Abel’ and curled coquettishly up in her chair like a cat, her long legs coiled beneath her. Abel raised one eyebrow and waited.
    â€˜I’m – I’m afraid I haven’t finished my essay. Not quite.’
    â€˜Ah,’ said Abel. He let the ‘Ah’ hang in the air between them for a moment like a small thundercloud, then continued, ‘In that case, read me what you’ve written so far.’
    â€˜Well, there’s – that is, it’s not really . . .’
    Abel smiled grimly. ‘You haven’t started it yet, have you?’
    Louise blushed, gazing at the carpet. ‘No,’ she said in a small voice. It was absurd, she told herself firmly, to blush like this. But somehow Abel Kendrick had that effect on her.
    Abel sighed, a little theatrically. (Academia, he liked to remind his students, was essentially a branch of showbiz.) ‘Louise, this isn’t good enough. You didn’t present an essay last week, either. In fact, this is the third you’ve missed this term. I used to think you were one of my best first-year students. Your essays were excellent and on time. They were well researched, and you have a quick original mind. You seemed to be in line for a brilliant First. But this term – well?’
    Louise looked wretched, shifting unhappily in her chair. ‘I don’t know, Abel. I am trying, honestly. I was working on this all yesterday, really

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