The House of Elyot

The Heart-Shaped Box

Posted on: May 10, 2016

My crawl down Memory Lane has rung out 2009 and rung in 2010, and finds me existing in a post-Black Lace wilderness. Apocalyptic times indeed. Would my work ever see print publication again? I did wonder.

As it happened, about three months after the announcement of the indefinite ‘hiatus’, my editor popped up again with a new proposition. He’d just got a job as commissioning editor with independent outfit Xcite books. They were pretty new in the market, but they saw an opening and they got in there!

With renewed hope, I submitted to the new short story calls like billy-o, and the first out of the gate was a story called The Heart-Shaped Box, which appeared in the collection Sex, Love and Valentines, published in January 2010. This tale of a couple who prefer kinky toys to flowers and chocolates appeared alongside stories by: Kat Black, Jeremy Edwards, Shanna Germain, Landon Dixon, Roger Frank Selby, Lucy Felthouse, Primula Bond, Izzy French, Amelia Thornton, J Manx, Janine Ashbless, Sue Williams, Elizabeth Cage, Charlotte Stein, Alcamia, Lilli Lace, Sophia Valenti and Lynn Lake.

One of the nice things about writing for a new outfit was the expansion of my pool of fellow writers. New faces and old joined together and ‘erotic social media’ was a very fun place to be at that time.

Another ‘first’ was the offering of the book to Amazon Vine reviewers – which was a great way to get a lot of reviews, fast, but could be funny when some of those reviewers clearly weren’t expecting anything quite so rude!

The book is no longer in print, although a few copies are still obtainable from Amazon.

Here’s how my story starts:

I tend to ignore the advance of Valentine’s Day: the steady pink-and-fluffying of the shop windows and card racks; the helium balloons and expensive chocolates and bottles of fizz everywhere; the perfume promotions and special restaurant menus and adverts for The Twenty Most Vomit-Inducing Ballads in the World, Ever, Part 38. It all leaves me a bit cold, this commercialisation of love. Not even love. Romance. Whatever that is.

So when Spiro told me he had a Valentine’s surprise for me, I was unenthusiastic. ‘I don’t do Valentine’s Day,’ I told him.

‘You will do this one,’ he told me, undaunted. ‘You will do. And you will be done to.’

Ah, now that sounded more like something I could get on board with. And I began to feel optimistic. Spiro understood me. He would not be like the last boyfriend I had over a Valentine’s Day, who gave me a fuchsia-coloured teddy bear wearing a T-shirt bearing the legend “I Wuv U”. That was doomed right from the start. The power of wuv was definitely not enough.

With Spiro though, at the age of twenty eight, I had finally started to explore aspects of my sexual identity that had long lain dormant. I had always known I had a kinky side, but I assumed it was something I ought to hide or suppress, for fear of…I don’t really know. But fear kept it in the background, at any rate, while I played at being vanilla and wondered why I couldn’t get properly involved in my relationships.

The lovers thought I was cold and self-absorbed, and I probably was. Until Spiro came along.

It was like a lightning flash; he did everything right, the way I fantasised. He watched me for a while first – all the eyes-meeting-and-snatching-away stuff that makes the pit of your stomach bubble and boil fit to burst. Then there were knowing looks and smirks and somehow always being in the elevator at the same time, brushing up, nudging shoulders. Then he deviated from the vanilla script and walked straight into my dreams by following me to the tube station one evening after work and saying, ‘You should come out with me. I think I’d be good for you.’

Like any self-respecting noughties woman, I played up the independent schtick and scorned his advance. ‘Yeah? Good for me? Right.’

‘Because I’ve seen the type you go for, and I think I know where you’re going wrong.’

‘Oh, pray do tell.’ Heavy on the sarcasm, but my heart was pitter-pattering like a captive bird’s.

‘You go for these sensitive guys you can walk all over. They don’t challenge you, so you get bored and move on. You need someone that challenges you. I’d challenge you.’

The crowds at the ticket barrier blurred away for a moment – I actually felt faint. I mean, it was hardly a revelation – at some level I’d always known this. But…for somebody else to see it…it felt significant. And momentous. And a bit like falling in love, not that I’d ever done that.

I went out with him, and he was right. He challenged me. He interested me. He kept me on my toes. It was weird, because he was two years younger than me, and I’d always fantasised about an older man, but he had a natural authority that went beyond youthful cockiness and self-assurance – though he had those in spades too. It didn’t hurt that he was gorgeous either, in that broad-shouldered olive-skinned Italian way, with a shock of inky hair and sumptuous lips you could kiss all day and night.

The sex got very exciting very quickly. There was none of that pussy-foot dance, shall-we-or-shan’t-we, ‘oh look, I’ve missed all the buses and I can’t afford a taxi’ type thing. No, I cooked him a meal and after we’d spooned up the last of the tiramisu, he pushed my wine glass aside and said, ‘If we’re out of food, it must be time for bed.’ A grin that could be interpreted as cheeky or wicked accompanied the words. ‘I think you must agree.’

‘You’re awful,’ I said.

‘That’s for you to find out. Though I don’t think you’ll be saying so tomorrow morning.’

He wasn’t awful. He was amazing. He did all the things I’d longed for other lovers to do – he held me down by the wrists, he talked dirty, he encouraged me to change position by slapping me on the bum, and, most of all, he made me come like the Japanese bullet train, hard and fast and over and over again. He was like a rough, bluff pirate king of sex and I couldn’t get enough of him.

So it was just as well he had plenty to give. He was still giving, six months later, in mid-February, just as the celebration of St Valentine hit the cash registers of the post-Christian world.

1 Response to "The Heart-Shaped Box"

Xcite had actually been around for three years already when this antho came out. But along with my novel that was released on or around the same day (and which also got “Vined”), I believe this Valentine’s collection may have marked the end of their candystriped-cover epoch.

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