Tier 1. You may meet people from different households indoors and outdoors, but you must maintain a distance from anyone outside of your support bubble. Hospitality curfew of 11 pm, work from home where possible and limit time on public transport. 6,000 new cases daily. 40 deaths.
I met you in the garden. Stocky and rosy-cheeked with russet hair. “I’m a policeman,” you said, chest puffed out in pride. You’d moved in just before the start of the pandemic and seen me through the window of your ground floor flat, soaking up the sun’s weak rays as you wolfed down your bacon and eggs before work.
You were on the frontline, risking your life to enforce during the lockdown. I was shielding from this terrifying new plague. Your soldier-like resolve calmed my existential dread. You went out every day and faced it as though it were nothing, while I was scared to use the lift in our building, disinfecting the soles of my shoes before coming indoors. You chuckled at my meticulousness. Before long, we were eating linguine slathered in your homemade tomato sauce in the garden, at a distance, of course. You showed me your flourishing tomato plants trailing up the wall. It was one of those perfect early September evenings, and we chatted until the sky turned dark blue. You got out a torch, and, eyes shining, told me about your work; tales of dead bodies, drug busts and drunk drivers. I was enthralled. Something in your manner made me want to confide in you all my sins and I proceeded to do so as you grinned with boyish glee. I asked if you would protect me from bad sorts in future and you nodded earnestly. Slipping inside, we sunk into the sofa cushions and you pressed your lips lightly against mine. “No-one has kissed me in a very long time,” I warned you. You cradled me like a baby in your lap and asked about my broken body. I told you the story. We kissed again and we lost all sense of time. I came back the next night and beat you at chess. You were pleased, telling me “I wanted a smart girl like you”. You showed me the history books you read in the evenings by the light of a brass lamp.
Tier 2. No mixing with anyone outside of your household or support bubble indoors. You can meet in groups of six from different households outdoors. Work from home where possible. 15,000 new cases daily. 150 deaths.
We had to meet in the garden instead, sitting on adjacent benches like love-struck teenagers. We drank endless cups of lapsang souchong – your favourite tea – while eating my latest lockdown bakes: banana flapjacks; beetroot brownies; lavender shortbread; courgette cake. You moved closer than was allowed and said you longed to kiss me. Nerves made me slosh my tea over my knees. Soon the ground was littered with dead leaves and the air damp with droplets of rain. I agreed to perch in the doorway of your kitchen and watch you slice Polish sausage for a stew to the soundtrack of Johnny Cash. I said we could close the door if we both wore masks. Yours was black and mine, petal pink. You pulled down the blinds so the neighbours wouldn’t see us breaking the rules, and slotted your hips into mine as I diced onions. “Naughty!” I scolded. This only spurred you on more, and you slipped a hand inside my knickers. I grabbed your crotch and you inhaled sharply. We moved into the hallway and I unzipped your trousers and kneaded your warm, firm cock until you came, which didn’t take long. For dessert, we melted dark chocolate onto raspberries.
We continued our masked adventures the next night. I let your hand wander down my top to feel my breast, drawing circles around my nipple as your other hand slid between my legs. You pushed your finger inside me and wriggled it about like a curious worm. The heat started rising in my face. You led me to your bed, telling me you liked to watch the girl’s face as she enjoyed your cock. I conceded, slowly grinding down on you. Then it was my turn. There was something erotic about not being able to see your face as you fucked me from the side, pumping life into my numb limbs. My physical frailty and your sturdy form were like complementary forces.
You came home from work each day with sore feet, hardly able to stay awake. I let you collapse in my arms and recall the day’s dramas. I started looking at the world through your eyes, wondering if people I passed on the street were up to no good. I was disturbed to learn you had had death threats and couldn’t set foot in the town centre. I berated you for leaving the back door unlocked as we lay naked together by the fire. You promised you wouldn’t let anything happen to me. Nestling my head into your chest, I felt I’d come home. I patted your belly proprietarily and asked about your phobias. You had nightmares about being stabbed. You asked me about my fantasies and whispered yours. “Maybe next time I’ll bring some handcuffs home from work,” you said. I liked it when you took charge in the kitchen and in bed. Perhaps out of habit, you used the imperative at home too:
“Come over here…”
“No, not like that…”
“Yes – harder!”.
Tier 3. No household mixing. Restaurants, shops, hairdressers, gyms and swimming pools closed. Only essential businesses remain open, including takeaways. Limit travel. Don’t leave your county unless you have an urgent reason. Continue to work from home where possible. 20,000 new cases daily. 200 deaths.
You told me to stay home so I sent you tantalizing photos of me in my crimson dressing-gown, slicked wet from the bath and bald all over like a newborn. One night, when your aftershave still clung to my clothes and I swore that I could almost still taste you in my mouth, I couldn’t resist sneaking over to your place, and you greeted me fresh from the shower with a towel around your waist. Realizing our attempts to prevent transmission were futile, I said, “I think you should just kiss me,” and greedily nibbled your ears and nuzzled your neck before meeting your parted lips. Then I knelt, reached a hand under your towel and ran my tongue around, sucking you with alternating speed and intensity until you were on the cusp of climax. You picked me up and threw me on the bed, entering me from behind while I squealed and moaned, my head snapping back as waves of pleasure coursed through my pelvis.
Tier 4. Stay home apart from exercising. Stay within your support/Christmas bubble. You can only meet one other person from another household in a public outdoor space. Limit travel. Continue to work from home where possible. 27,000 new cases. 600 deaths.
Boris promised “Christmas as normal” but it was not to be; the Christmas Bubble was lethal. Still, your faith in him never wavered. You weren’t able to see your family and had to work on Christmas Day so I cheered you up with whiskey truffles and pork pies from the local butcher. You donned a red paper hat like a jolly elf. On Boxing Day I caught a chill sitting with you in the garden as you chopped firewood. I couldn’t go near you as half of your team had been struck down with the virus. The following day you lost your sense of smell, unable to taste the chocolate chestnut cake I’d brought you. Soon, you developed a sore throat and couldn’t stop shivering. “I’m so cold,” you texted. My heart ached at the thought of you, feverish in your bed and clutching a hot water bottle. I wanted to go to you but you told me not to come near the house. You were getting worse, you said. Your messages became fewer and more sporadic. At New Year I thought this was it, you were going to die alone and there was nothing I could do to prevent it. Finally, you turned a corner, but I still had to wait until you were no longer infectious to see you. When the day came, I burst into your house and kissed your forehead and chubby cheeks, running my fingers through your now long hair and beard. You crouched down and squeezed my hands, asking how it had been without you. “Rubbish!” I said. It was so cold that my hands had turned blue. You carried me upstairs and we got undressed under the covers. My feet were like ice cubes, you said, so we ran a hot bath. Red and white and blotchy like babies, we explored each other’s bodies in the steam, slipping a bar of soap between the crevices. With your full weight, you pressed me against the wall and, thrusting urgently, brought me to a quick climax.
Slowly but surely, the world emerged from winter lockdown and we crawled out of the warm cocoon of your flat. You were not yourself; the sickness had deflated you and you complained of muscle ache. I no longer saw you chopping wood out of my window. By the time the first crocuses were gingerly poking their heads out of the soil, people had started picking up the pieces after their ordeal, and we knew it was safe to release our tight grip on one another. But once I let go of you it wasn’t the same; perhaps we needed the intensity to survive. I no longer went round to your place. I once caught a glimpse of you on patrol on the high street, uniformed and striding with authority. But this wasn’t the tender and sweet boy I had shared a bed with. Sometimes I saw you in the garden, sowing new seeds in your vegetable pots, but you never looked up.