Zoe loves Christmas, and being a mum has only given her reason to love it even more. It’s difficult to say who is more excited, her or daughter, but Zoe would argue it has to be her, because while her daughter is mainly looking forward to what she’ll get from Santa, Zoe has the excitement of both getting stuff from Santa but also being Santa and knowing that she is actually the one responsible for her daughter’s delight.

That said, Christmas is not the only reason for her excitement, because Zoe also has a new(ish) boyfriend. If it feels like he’s newer than he is, it’s because she’s only just introduced him to her daughter and, as a result, he’s started staying over, which is life-changing – if you’d told Zoe when she was a teenager that sex at thirty-two could involve just as much sneaking around as sex at fifteen, she’d never have believed you.

The boyfriend, Nick, is also the reason why she’ll be getting stuff from Santa for the first time in years – it was Nick himself who suggested they do stockings for one another, and Zoe found herself falling for him even harder.

And so, at 3pm on Christmas eve, she sits in the kitchen wrapping presents for the two most important people in her life – her daughter, who’s at her dad’s, and her boyfriend, who’ll be over when he finishes work. Her wrapping is exquisite – there’s a whole colour scheme and she’s spent the best part of a week’s salary on ribbon.

When her daughter is dropped off later that evening, she and Zoe put out a Sherry for Santa and a carrot for his reindeer. ‘Where will Santa leave my presents, mummy?’

‘He puts them at the end of your bed, darling – that way when you wake up, you’ll know straight away that he’s been.’

Nick, meanwhile, gets two stockings (three if you want to be precise) – the one she’s stuffed for him, and the ones she’s wearing. It’s the early hours of Christmas day before they’re sated and she drifts off in his arms.

She wakes to the sound of her daughter’s tears. ‘Mummy, Santa hasn’t been!’


The temptation of cock has stolen Christmas.


Yasmin sends Ben a letter when it’s all over, to let him know that, although she adored him, there are really no hard feelings on her part.

She uses her best notepaper, the thick, cream stuff her grandma bought her years ago, and a decent gel pen, not some cracked old biro she’s found at the back of a drawer.

She writes the words she knows she should, not the words she wants to. She says that she loved the time they’ve spent together, that he’s taught her more than he could ever know, that she understands why they had to stop

She doesn’t understand at all.

What she wants to say is that she misses being curled up on the sofa with him, watching Netflix, that she misses his thick fingers in her cunt and his thick cock in her mouth. What she really wants to say is that she wants him to take her back.

She needs to walk away from the letter for a bit, she decides, needs to clear her head or at least turn her sadness into an emotion she can deal with more easily.

A stamp. She’ll need a stamp. She’ll walk to the post office to buy one – it’s drizzly and miserable outside, but it’ll calm her, soothe her anxious thoughts, perhaps.

At least, that’s the idea. But in the post office, queuing for her stamps, she spots something and has a better idea.

When Ben opens her letter, he’s just hoovered. Just hoovered – and he doesn’t do it often – and now there is glitter everywhere. All colours and sizes of it – large flakes and tiny crystals, foiled pink love hearts, for fuck’s sake. If she wanted him to know that the feelings she describes in the letter are just a cover for her anger, she’s succeeded – two years later, engaged to someone else, he’s still finding bits of the stuff all over the place.


Every time Xandra drives past that lay-by, she wants to stop. Instead, she forces herself to carry on home, back to the safety of her living room, back to the warmth and the softness and the ability to close the curtains, fire up the laptop and google pictures of lorry cabs so she can better imagine what it would be like to be fucked inside one.

She doesn’t know quite what it is about lorry drivers. Or maybe it’s not even the drivers, maybe it’s just what they represent. Just thinking about parking her little Ford Fiesta in that lay-by amongst all those massive trucks and getting out to pee in the tired-looking concrete loo block makes her feel an equal mix of scared and turned on. It taps into so many things – exhibitionism, because the main road is so near, but also taboo – the sense that she’d have strayed somewhere she really shouldn’t be.

And so she dares herself, one winter afternoon, to stop on the way home from work. As her car slows to a halt, she’s thinking about all the women’s magazines she’s read over the years that warn of the dangers of trying to make your fantasies – even ones much more every day than hers – reality.

There’s nobody around, although there are several lorries parked up. She decides to check out the loo block – at least in there she’ll be able to indulge in some of her darker fantasies – of her cheek pushed up against the concrete as a short, muscular guy with a shaved head ploughs into her roughly from behind.

But as she opens the door of the block, she doesn’t expect to be confronted with the rear view of a guy at the urinal.

‘Oh christ,’ she says. ‘Sorry!’

And clearly, it isn’t often they encounter women around here because at the sound of her voice, the guy jerks and pees straight up the wall.m


Wendy has a kink that her husband doesn’t share. She had thought, when she married him, that she could leave it behind her, but now, six years on, she knows that the longing for it will never leave her, and she’s not sure how much longer she can resist the urge to satisfy it.

She fantasises about it all the time now – when he’s between her legs, licking her cunt, when he unzips in the kitchen, bends her over the table and takes her from behind, even when she’s alone and just folding clean laundry. No matter how hard she tries to force herself to think about other things, her mind always ends up wandering back that.

When he goes away on business, she cracks. She wakes early and knows that today will be the day. She dresses in her favourite outfit, takes her time over her make up, makes herself come while she waits for the kettle to boil. And then she gets the bus into town.

The department store has what she’s looking for, she knows that already – she goes there sometimes to stroke them longingly, to feel the cool metal buttons between her fingers. They have his size, the dark denim that he prefers. Everything that she’s wanted is within her reach now.

‘Can I help you madam? What kind of thing does your husband like?’

She blushes, in spite of herself. ‘Oh no, no, I’m fine, thank you.’

Only one part of her plan remains. When that is done, she pours herself a large glass of wine, and runs a bath. Her husband is due back that evening, but she’ll have to wait until the following morning for her fantasy to play out in full. The bit where he opens his wardrobe and, seeing three brand new pairs of button fly jeans, asks ‘Where are my old ones?’

‘The ones with the zip?’ she’ll ask, sweet as anything. ‘I cut them up.’


Ursula owns a beauty salon. It’s a successful business, and she’s proud to have built it up from nothing into something that not only pays her a good wage, but pays for two other full-time employees as well. She’s not only good at massage and painting nails – although she is good at those things – she’s also a gifted saleswoman.

She remembers everything about her clients’ relationships. She knows who’s on Tinder, who’s been with their partner for years but isn’t yet married, who’s recently had a baby, who has a crush on the lifeguard at the local pool.

Does she exploit that knowledge?

She prefers to think of it as doing her customers a favour.

She usually brings it up when they’re in a vulnerable position – just waking up from having drifted off during a back and shoulder massage, or as she has their hand in hers, gently rubbing in hand cream before she paints their nails a delicate pink.

‘How’s your boyfriend?’ she asks, slyly, or ‘Is your husband well?’ The response is almost always the same – muted mutterings about how things could be worse, could be better.

And then she prefers to be direct. ‘When did you last get waxed?’ she asks. ‘He’d like that, wouldn’t he, if you went home all clean and smooth? What a nice treat for him!’

Her clients wonder how she knows that it’s been ages, or even never. That the best they ever do is a quick swipe of an old Gillette razor on a Sunday evening.

‘I have a spare half an hour now, if you have time,’ she says, and it works, well, probably 80% of the time.

It works because they look at her, with her neat chignon and her false lashes, and her white starched dress, and they imagine her immaculate underneath, too.

Which is untrue. Ursula has never waxed in her life.


Tatiana has told all her friends that her new boyfriend is an actor. She keeps meaning to ask him what he’s been in – it has been nearly three months, after all – but somehow she just hasn’t got round to it yet. Anyway, he has another job for the moment – he sells cars, which is a bit cringey – she doesn’t like to think of him being all smarm and fake charm, but, as long as he doesn’t turn the charm on too thick when they’re together, she can cope with it.

Her friends, though, want to know. ‘Ask him what he’s been in,’ they protest. ‘Does he know Jude Law? Gillian Anderson? Can he get us cheap tickets for the National?’ They’re obnoxious like that, judgey. It doesn’t even occur to them that maybe he’s just been in more low-key stuff, stuff they might not even have heard of.

One night, they meet in the pub and, by the time she gets there, there’s already a glass of Prosecco on the table waiting for her. And he has one, too, that he’s nervously sipping from. None of these things are like him, and it occurs to Tatiana that he might be about to propose.

‘What are we celebrating?’ she asks, as she sits down. ‘I hope it’s something momentous!’ She’s trying to lighten the mood.

‘I got a part,’ he says, ‘A big one.’

‘Congratulations!’ she replies. ‘You didn’t tell Nr you were auditioning! Let me guess, you’re going to be … Macbeth!’

He laughs, deep and heartily, and she’s pleased she’s succeeded in cutting through the tension.

‘Not quite,’ he says, ‘but it is a lead role. I’m going to be one of the seven dwarfs in the village pantomime. I’ve got fifty-six lines to learn!’

Tatiana almost chokes on her drink. The village pantomime? What the fuck will she tell her friends? And would it be wrong to book a skiing holiday for that week and pretend it was in the diary before he found out?

Because she can forgive anything, anything but am dram.


Susie has been asked to make the wedding cake. She doesn’t want to make the wedding cake, but she’s never been good at saying no, and it was especially hard to say when faced with Annabel’s literal trilling.

‘But Maxie wants you to have a role, darling! He wants you to feel included!’

Susie disagrees. If Max had really wanted her to feel included, he’d have married her, rather than dumping her for Annabel in their second year of university. Still, she doesn’t say as much to Annabel. She just says ‘I guess I could do that.’

She’s not a professional baker, but she does bake, y’know, regularly. Her colleagues love her cakes. Max used to love her cakes. She’s got this, much as she’d rather not have.

Annabel is the type to want white and traditional, Susie knows that, but also, if Annabel wanted something specific, she should have bloody said, shouldn’t she? Susie is not really the traditional, three tier, fondant-iced type. She prefers things that are more modern, cooler.

And so she bakes Annabel and Max the cake that she would have wanted, if she’d been the one marrying him. It has the three tiers, sure, but not the white sugarpaste – in fact there is no sugarpaste at all. She bakes her signature ‘naked’ cake – three layers of vanilla sponge sandwiched together with lemon buttercream, the whole thing decorated with fresh fruit.

‘I hope you like it,’ she says to Annabel on morning of the wedding, all smiles.

Annabel is too polite to say otherwise. ‘I … yes, it’s lovely.’

‘I’m so glad,’ Susie replies. ‘After all, I know Max prefers things plain.’


Rebecca loves make up. It starts in the morning, when she puts her lipstick on for the first and only time that day. She doesn’t put on much other make up because, after work, she has an appointment at one of the beauty counters in the big department store, and she doesn’t see the point in making them take off her all make up just to reapply it.

The fun begins when they ask her what kind of look she’s hoping for – more every day, or evening – and she knows she can’t tell them what kind of look she really wants, although she’d like to.

‘We’ll just take that lipstick off first,’ they say, and this is the awkward bit, the bit where she has to explain that no, she wants to keep the worn, smudged or kissed off look that her lipstick has by 5pm, and can they just make up the rest of her face around it?

‘It’ll be tricky,’ they say, ‘but I guess we can do that.’

She’s a paying customer, after all.

She plumps for the party look in the end – the more make up the better – and she does a good job of pretending to care as they explain the purpose of primer and applying your base with a brush to give it staying power.

The bit she cares about is the eyes – yes, she wants a smoky eye, yes, she wants it dark, with lots of liner and mascara applied as thickly as possible. She wants to look immaculate, but she’s not interested in any of that natural look bullshit, not tonight.

When she gets home, he’s on the PlayStation, he doesn’t notice her face. She goes upstairs and gets straight in the shower. When she gets out, he’s laying on the bed, fondling his cock.

Her perfect make up runs in dark tributaries down her pale face.

‘What a slut,’

She moves closer to the bed and her grabs a handful of her hair in his fist, forces her face in the direction of his dick. ‘You look like you went out in the rain and let some dirty fucker do whatever he wanted to you in an alleyway somewhere.’

‘I did.’

He pushes her cock hard into her mouth, until it hits the back of her throat, makes her gag.

‘Oh really?’

Rebecca loves make up. It lets her, just now and then, pretend to be someone she’s not.


Quinta is laying, half asleep still, in a narrow single bed in a room on someone else’s corridor. The bathroom door is closed, but she can hear the sound of the shower running and, faintly, of someone whistling.

She doesn’t know what he has to whistle about – he might have come all over her tits, but she didn’t come at all – he didn’t even try to make sure she got off, too.

In the future, she’ll grow tired of this – going out to clubs, getting drunk and dancing, letting men she recognises from lectures buy her a vodka and coke and then, at the end of the evening, take her back to their room for a fuck that, nine times out of ten, is deeply underwhelming.

It’s the chase part she prefers, or not really even the chase – the anticipation of the chase, the fuck twice removed, as she likes to think of it. The possibility, when she’s drawing her liner on so it flicks out perfectly catlike, or stashing a handful of Durex in her clutch, that whoever she attracts tonight might actually know to put his thumb on her clit.

The man in the shower now wouldn’t have known what to do with her clit even if she’d taken his hand and put it there directly, she’s pretty sure of it. That too though, is something that she won’t really start doing with guys she’s fucking for another five years or so. At this point, she’s lucky if they remember to use their fingers first.

Still, she has her way of punishing them. She waits until the shower has stopped and the sound has changed to tooth brushing – it makes her feel like the risk of getting caught is greater – then she takes the book on top of the pile on his bedside table – the same one she’s studying for an essay that’s due in two days, and rips the final chapter clean out.

He’s not the first guy she’s done this to. She’s hoping to get a reputation on campus. But she never does. It’s almost as if the boys don’t bother reading the books they’re assigned – they just base their opinions on nothing.


Primrose is a dream to date. She knows exactly how to make a guy feel special – knows to let him pay for her drinks, but not her dinner, will let him hold her hand across the table,  will ask him question after question about his job, and not even expect him to ask half as many in return.

She is excited to meet Peter. She is hoping for someone geeky but cute, kind but funny. She prides herself on not being one of those girls who cares about things like height, or the car a guy drives. She prides herself on not being that shallow.

However, if she did care about those things, she’d be in luck. Peter is 6″3 and he drives a BMW.


Plus, she fancies him. She likes the way he looks, the sound of his voice (that’s surprisingly important), the fact that he’s wearing button-fly jeans, which have never yet failed to turn her on.

He slides the wine list across the bar towards her, and she asks for a glass of chardonnay, just like she always does. She might usually have suggested that they share a bottle, but as he’s driving, she decides not to.

That’s where it all goes wrong.

He’ll never understand why there was no kiss at the end of the night. Nor why she ghosted him.

He’d never guess it was the pint of orange juice and lemonade.