Chapter 32: Francesca – February 1978

Francesca was newly returned from Rhodesian where she had been covering the agreement by the Ian Smith regime to handover majority rule to black leadership.  She had spent the last twenty years as a Foreign Correspondent working on different newspapers in junior roles until she had landed a plum job with The Guardian almost seven years earlier.  For the last two years she had been one of the leading presenters on foreign affairs for the BBC.  Her career had been tough, working as she did in an almost exclusively male world and witnessing first-hand the atrocities of war and the decimation caused by natural disasters.  The first things she wanted to do when she got home were to luxuriate in the bath, take a massage and have a lot of steamy sex.

It hadn’t always been this way.  She had met a fellow reporter, Shaun Mulvaney, who had been working for the New York Times.  They had fallen in love and become engaged to be married, joking at the time that a Foreign Correspondent could only marry another one.  Tragically for the couple Shaun was sent out to Vietnam to cover the arrival of the US Marines in March of 1965; he was killed by a sniper bullet a couple of weeks into his assignment.  He had been 31 years old.  Francesca was 28.

A couple of years after the death of her fiancé Francesca had returned from Tampa, Florida where she had been covering the race riots.  Francesca, hardened by her work and by the death of her only love, had taken to cruising bars to pick up young men for sex.  This particular evening she struck lucky.  A tall darkly handsome young man approached her soon after she had sat at the bar and ordered a Scotch and Dry.  There was a slight Irish lilt to his voice that reminded her of Shaun.  After a while he began to amuse her.  He had a roughish twinkle in his eye and told a good yarn.  She was diverted.

So Francesca had taken Dylan home to her apartment in St John’s Wood and quickly got down to getting what she needed.  Dylan had obliged by shagging her long and hard through the night until she was exhausted and replete like never before.  She had been a little disconcerted when she discovered that he was actually only just 17, not the 19 years that he had admitted to.  He had been living on his wits on the streets of London, sometimes sleeping rough other times prostituting himself for food and a roof over his head.  She saw something in Dylan that was raw and almost feral, a quality that she recognised in herself developed by living hand to mouth in some of the armpits of the world.

She had been back in London for about three weeks, partly on leave and partly in the Fleet Street offices of her newspaper; for some reason she allowed Dylan to stick around.  She supposed it was because the sex was really good.  She was in no danger of becoming entangled by her emotions.  Dylan was fulfilling a need, like a masseuse easing the knots out of her neck and back, sex relaxed her body.

This was how their relationship started; when she was sent out to Jerusalem to cover the Israeli’s annexation of the eastern part of the city she allowed Dylan to stay.  Francesca laid down the rules before she left.  He could stay in her apartment on condition that he never invited anyone back.  He could come and go as he pleased but if anything ever went missing from her apartment he would be out on his ear.  She never had any illusions that Dylan would be exclusively hers; in fact she suspected that he frequented his old haunts and hooked up with prostitutes who had in the past given him freebies on account of his good looks and his sexual prowess.

Over the years Francesca’s career had blossomed and her salary increased commensurately.  When she had moved to a townhouse in Sydney Street, SW3 in 1972 Dylan had tagged along.  Neither saw the need to change the status quo; the relationship with no strings attached was perfect for both.  Francesca didn’t know what Dylan got up to when she was away on assignments and she never asked.  Dylan was free except when she was back in the UK when she expected his full attention.

It was no hardship to Dylan to deliver on this requirement as he liked sex and she gave him good sex.  They never went out together their relationship was strictly in the bedroom.  Francesca was generous in her appreciation and sometimes bought expensive gifts for him.  He also got to live in a great townhouse in Chelsea and to drive her cars.  Francesca occasionally thought that he might make something of himself.  He was intelligent and funny but lazy and she supposed he had no ambition.  In that she was wrong.

Dylan admired her career and would have liked to be a photojournalist, or at least a photographer, himself.  Despite the appearances to the contrary he was really not confident enough to try.

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