Where new writing finds its voice
Short Story

Tudor Girls

Niven Govinden


Stevens had never visited a gentlemen’s club until a week ago. Now it was all he could think about.

Saturday night, coke and fluff was the mantra that had got him through the past few days. He felt he could be more adventurous the second time around, diving into the depths of the club’s inventory, past the cheerleaders and bikini girls and into bespoke. He was after kink, costumes, and possibly boys.

It had been on his mind for most of the week, ever since that moment when he’d been handed the laptop to surf the talent and make his selection. If the club had every kind of girl known to man, who’s to say that there wouldn’t be a small selection of young men nearer the bottom of the list – one white, one black, one Asian, one oriental, one bear, one twink – to cover every eventuality? Like the liqueur bottle stuffed at the bottom of his desk drawer, always present but seldom used.

Boys weren’t at the top of his list. He just knew that he would relax more knowing they were available. It took the edge off.

His driver, Twigg, was the one who’d recommended the place. He’d been down since the divorce and mentioned to Twigg that he needed something to snap himself out of it. This place, down an anonymous street in Romsey, unnamed, unmarked, was offered as a solution.

‘It’s discreet, sir. No squealers in this part of the world.’

‘You’re sure?’

Fear, of losing control rather than blackmail, had always kept him away from such places. He had seen several of his peers brought down for lesser failings, those who lost their heads to tarts or racetracks, clearing diaries and disappearing for days on end. Submitting elaborate excuses to their staff and families: of sudden conferences and urgent negotiations that needed to take place in private and without radio contact. Lies that became addictive and usually ended with tough love and rehab. He’d instigated enough people into programmes over the years to know the signs.

‘You don’t find photographers in Romsey, sir. Too frightened of the locals.’

Good man, Twigg. Damned good. Probably the best employee he had in the whole company.

Still, for all that, Twigg was made to wait in the car. He asked the bruiser on the door to ensure that he was fed and watered, and kept happy. He’d booked the suite for the night; if he was going to make the most of it, he wouldn’t be coming up for air until morning.

The bruiser was called Ivan. ‘We’re very flattered to have your company again, sir’ came the comment as they padded up the corridor to the suite. The acuteness also from Ivan’s physical presence, this hulking shadow following him up the corridor. Stevens yearned for simple anonymity. The western American states had the right idea: automated entrances with CCTVs and swipe readers to guzzle your credit cards, factories for laps and titty where you wouldn’t have to see a soul.

Drinks-wise he started off hard with Tresiliker. Beers in a place like this were for amateurs, he thought, forgetting that he needed to pace himself. His head quickly became a circuit board of fast-rotating muddle, forcing him to sit down and take several sharp breaths before he calmed down.

There was no chance of taking the coke because he’d forgotten about the CCTV cameras, until he remembered Ivan’s capacity as a host, with his bottomless desire to please – the bottom being your overall credit limit. He paid him another grand to switch them off.

He was itching for the costumes, needing to be lap danced by history. He wasn’t messing around. The first girl he’d ordered was Anne Boleyn. She was four times the price of a cheerleader because of the preparation involved, but worth it.

The wait for her arrival was close to an hour but when it came, it was full-length emerald brocade with a pleasingly authentic amount of open chest, matching hair band, starched face, playful eyes. 

She entered the room sideways, the width of her skirt proving difficult to negotiate though the narrow doors more suited to an estate than Hampton Court. She looked out of place in the modernist suite. There needed to be at least one thing in the room to centre her, a painting or a piece of furniture that could explain and naturalise her presence, a Holbein portrait rather than a bottle of bourbon, a lute to replace the iTunes. Anything.

‘Good evening,’ she began.

She was neither English nor Dutch. The accent was thickly Russian. But at least it was old Europe, so, close.

‘Do I pick the song, or do you?’

He was unaware of the protocol when it came to special requests. It was why he needed someone like Twigg, who was a man of the world, to prompt during these uncertain moments. Maybe walkie-talkies or ear pieces would be useful in these situations. Bouncers, head waiters, secret service chaps all moving in their streamlined simplicity and guided by the voices in their heads; it couldn’t be too complicated a system to master if chumps like that were using them. Something to consider.

‘I pick the music, my Lord. Just sit back.’

He would have to tip her extra for the language.

The music wasn’t the lute he was expecting, but ‘Get The Party Started’ by Pink.

She straddled him, pulling up her skirt from the front so that her bare legs made contact where they needed to. It was a quick manoeuvre, giving him only a scant flash of her underwear, French knickers of the same shade as the brocade, and brand new. Then distracted from this as she pushed into him, swathes of thick fabric packed into his chest and tickled the stubble on his neck. It created the desired distance between them up top, a bedspread vacuum-packed as their buffer, whilst they got acquainted from the waist down.

‘Is this comfortable for you?’ she asked. ‘I can take the dress off if you’d prefer.’

‘Oh no. This is fine.’

He marvelled at how she was able to move in her corset, even though most of the work was taking place at her hips. The exertion of the back and forth as she thrust her décolletage took some doing; the effort showing in her jawline as she smiled it out, and in the sweat that collected around her temples. He could have moved forward a fraction towards the edge of the chair to make her life easier, but then he wouldn’t have been comfortable, and his overall comfort was rather the point. Hazard of the job, rib chafing due to too much movement in a corset. She was probably Vaseline’d up anyway, under there.

He wondered about how many men had got lucky with Boleyn, if she’d ever danced so seductively with suitors other than Henry. Historians had always said yes, but he always felt that was a stitch-up. Maybe he was just soppy, wanting her to only have eyes for Henry. How would he have handled a lap dance from her? How long would he have waited before pulling her out of that corset, letting his tongue cool and soothe the tender inflamed skin beneath?

The Boleyn he’d been sent was the one who’d just married into the Tudor house and was still in honeymoon. She giggled and purred despite her discomfort and the clunkiness of the clothes, all joy of sex. Secrets revealed. 

It was all very nice, and it gave him the wood he was after, but he half-wished he was being entertained by a later incarnation, when the emerald brocade was replaced by black. Where the rose tone under the skin, the public sign of her tenderness, was replaced by the sickly tan from the prison cell, from the best conditions offered by the Tower of London. And where the tightness in her throat, the fear of what was coming, killed any laughter. Being consensually mock-seduced by this creature would have been drab, mechanical, humiliating, more pleasurable. He didn’t care what anyone said, there was something more appealing about a miserable cow.

History figured bigger than fantasy. If he’d been after some student who was paying her way through university by donning a rubber catsuit twice a week he would have stayed at home. History held a greater allure; to be stimulated by the unattainable, women whose bones had long since crumbled to dust.

He got himself a pre-Memphis Dusty whilst he waited the two hours he was advised it would take to apply the pockmarks to Anne of Cleves. He was impressed with the level of detail, if slightly put out by their sourcing. Surely it would have made sense to have a pockmarked girl to begin with? There must be a wide-enough pool of badly nourished acne-scarred girls in the former Eastern Bloc to find one suitable candidate.

Dusty rode him sidesaddle with a certain degree of abandon considering her floor-length sequinned column gown, but wouldn’t rub cheeks as requested.

‘I can’t. It’ll knock off my beehive.’

‘You’ll get a bigger tip.’

‘I can’t. If the wig comes off you’ll be getting Lulu rather than Dusty.’

‘Lulu wasn’t blonde.’

‘She was in the seventies. I’ve got the tapes.’

‘What’s your real name?’

‘Mary O’Brien.’

He stayed with Dusty. Lulu had never appealed.

She played ‘I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face’ because she was in the process of acting out her own fantasy within his fantasy: that she was a white Dionne Warwick ministering her ‘Wives and Lovers’ code of conduct: a closed performance. 

In the final half of the song she abandoned the lip-sync and, eyes closed, gyrated to her own agenda like he wasn’t even there. The heterosexual pretence falling, but still a form of temptress even if she could no longer hold herself up to the standard of Dionne; and with her own record playing, still the wild egotist.

They were all obsessed with hair, as if, not confident of their performances, the wigs became the crowning definitions of their identities. The wigs were the show, not the girls. It was like he was in a wiggy couture house with girls to model them. So Dionne was unhappy when he knocked her curls out of place accidentally as cramp started to form in his hands, and Josephine Baker got pissed when he couldn’t resist a touch, her Marcel wave falling out of its front clip in the kerfuffle.

Cleves was miserable, thick and uncooperative. Fat. Useless bovine movements. He could see how it had been a quick divorce. He may have been wrong in his choice of period. There was no recklessness to be had with the late Tudors, not unless he wanted to get naked with Henry. A looser, more joyful period was needed, like the fifties, Reformation, or Regency.

Scrolling down again, slave to the scroll, past Joan of Arc, Marie Antoinette and two Cleopatras – the African version and the Liz Taylor revision – until he found what he was looking for: a perfect pair of fun bags.

He called again for Ivan.