The Tryst is a literary erotic novella about a married couple, Bill and Jane, whose relationship has grown stale. On the night of the summer solstice they visit a London pub, where they encounter Lila – a mysterious femme fatale. She has a mesmerising effect on Bill, and Jane is horrified but fascinated herself. At closing time Jane impulsively invites Lila home for another drink, thus beginning a startling chain of events, and unleashing raw and powerful forces that will change all their lives for ever…
Monique Roffey is an award-winning novelist. Her most recent novel House of Ashes, (Scribner UK) received widespread praise and was shortlisted for the Costa and the BOCAS Prize. Archipelago, winner of the OCM BOCAS prize for Caribbean Literature, was published by Scribner in the UK, Viking in the US, and translated into 5 languages. Her second novel, The White Woman On the Green Bicycle, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Encore Prize, among other accolades.
What makes The Tryst an unexploded virus isn't just the quality and brightness of Roffey's writing on sex, even as it uncovers inner glades between flesh and fantasy where sex resides - but the taunting clarity of why those glades stay covered. A throbbing homewrecker of a tale, too late to call Fifty Shades of Red. -DBC Pierre, author of Vernon God Little and Booker Prize winner 2013
The Tryst is a sly, feral, witty, offbeat erotic novella that unsettles the reader, even as it arouses. There are sex scenes of breath-taking audacity. What would any of us do if an irresistible sex daemon broke and entered our domestic lives, leaving havoc in her amoral wake? Monique Roffey knows that the real question about human desire is whether we even recognise our deepest yearnings. How can anyone resist what they have never even dreamt of? -Rowan Pelling, editor, The Amorist
I've read The Tryst and was enormously entertained and impressed. It's wild and witching, at once contemporary and atavistic, with an anarchic sexual energy running through it and a startling frankness, not only about sex, but about love and relationships, gender and power ... a daring write and a consuming read. - Bidisha, writer and broadcaster
Extract from The Tryst
She had pointy ears. Or that was how I imagined them when I first saw her; that’s what sprang to mind. She was also curiously hairless, no eyelashes, and her eyebrows were pencilled on. No hair on her arms either, I checked, and her skin, as a result, was more like vinyl upholstery. Smooth and pearly, it stretched over plump limbs and the curves of her face. Her eyes were pear-coloured and slanted upwards, her teeth small and white and neat. Her hair was dyed a flamey red and cut into a bob. The combination made her appear boy-girl. Or perhaps even child. Yes, something about her skin was that new, almost newborn. But her most striking feature was her height, or lack of it.
Lilah Hopkins was freakishly short. She glowed as if lit from within, as if burning with lamp oil, or with the same mysterious phosphorescent substance inside a firefly.
We went to meet Sebastian that night. He’d phoned to see if Bill and I might like to meet for a drink. It was a Sunday evening, a Sunday for Godssake. How could anyone say I’d set it all up: I didn’t. Not this part. It was a Sunday evening, good and honest, and our journey out was on a whim.
“Let’s go out,” we said to each other when Sebastian rang; it had been a quiet weekend and I was on the brink of suggesting a trip to the pub myself. Sebastian suggested a bar he knew, somewhere easy for us all to meet, one of those gastro-pubs, very non-descript. Lots of dark woods, tables, ochre walls, a bar with a stainless steel top, a central island. The place was half-empty when we arrived.
Sebastian was already at the bar, eyes roving the room. I sensed he’d been a bit cooped up and was using us as a prop to get out. No matter. We were using him too in a way and Sebastian is good company, doesn’t mind being used. Sebastian is a handsome man: dark curly hair, dark eyes, a cigarette permanently crushed into the side of a grin. He wore battered Caterpillar work boots, a checked flannel shirt over jeans.
Sebastian and I were old friends. We met long before I met my husband Bill, long before I went on my travels. We were part of a small and intimate group of friends, each of us ambitious, aspiring writers or poets, actors and painters. Through our twenties and early thirties we talked and smoked and drank and took drugs and rowed and flirted and fancied and fucked and loved and unloved and dumped each other, swapping partners over and over again. Once or twice Sebastian and I ended up in bed. The first time was glorious, a night I’ll remember when I’m seventy-years-old. The second time was so awful, after a long and booze-fuelled night, I was forever cured of my lust for Sebastian. After that, our friendship became less ambiguous but we remained close. He married a jazz singer, but it didn’t last long. Sebastian was recently divorced.
The men hugged and slapped each other’s backs.
I kissed Sebastian on both cheeks.
“The longest day of the year,” Sebastian held up his pint in salutation.
I had forgotten, it was the year’s high point, the 21st June, the evening of the summer solstice.
“No wonder you wanted to get out,” I teased Sebastian.
Bill put his hand on my shoulder, ordered us some drinks at the bar. He smelled of sandalwood, a dim scent rubbed into the oakiness of his skin: Bill’s smell. He stood close to me, almost touching. He was proud to be seen with me, and I with him. We were together then, very much together, our last hours, before things changed for good.
“You two look well,” Sebastian even commented.
We nodded. We were happy, pretty happy on the surface of things. We had both showered and made an effort with our clothes. Bill wore a worn and favourite pink shirt, me a skinny-rib cotton polo neck with the sleeves cut away; we were both sun-kissed and lightly freckled from being in the garden. We stood together, blissful in our coupledom; we showed it off.
We found a table in a corner. I sat back, not really listening to the men’s conversation. I cradled a glass of merlot to my chest and retracted. I was happy to let the men talk. They got on well enough. I like that relaxed feeling brought on by alcohol, enjoy the way it slows things down. I was content on the banquette. It was my turn to scan the room which had filled a little since we arrived. I didn’t see her then, no red-haired woman caught my eye. Just a few other similar groups in the pub that mid-summer evening, mixed gatherings of men and women talking and drinking. Nothing struck me as unusual. I sipped and scanned and daydreamed as I’m prone: my downfall.
It was humid in that bar. The skies bulged and had bled water the day before and the sun had raged that afternoon, then the skies were fierce and empty. It was close, very close in that bar and the heat brought about a tender shine on our faces. My daydream quickly became sexual: a man, faceless, followed me downstairs to the bathroom. Without speaking to each other he had me up against a wall, where he pulled up my skirt, his mouth on my neck, his fingers sliding inside me. I sipped my wine. The man slipped himself into the river inside me. My lips were hard against his forehead, his teeth sunk into my shoulder, both of us trying to muffle the mayhem of arousal.
I kept a dim and remote ear to Bill and Sebastian’s conversation while this faceless man was inside me. We fucked slowly and then less slowly and then faster and harder and then we fell crashing into a cubicle. I braced my legs against the walls of the cubicle and he danced inside me. God it was wonderful, a key in a lock, a piece of my puzzle fitted inside me. We embraced and laughed and fucked in that hot dark space, downstairs, rhythmic and urgent and ridiculous. My pussy swelled at these thoughts. My nipples hardened. I crossed my legs and sighed and moaned a little. Eventually, I noticed the men’s pints were low and rose to buy the next round.
When I returned, to my surprise, a woman had joined us. She sat next to Sebastian on a stool drawn in from another table. I assumed she’d just walked in, that she was a friend Sebastian had recognised. Immediately, I was aware of the change this woman provoked in the men’s behaviour. Both were far more animated, more upright. Sebastian was visibly more alert, but then this is his way when it comes to women, Sebastian is an alpha male, and charming with it. But my husband too was more alive; Bill had even turned a little pink in the cheeks.
I sat down and coughed loudly.
“Oh, yes. Jane, this is Lilah, Lilah Jane,” Sebastian explained, without glancing at me. His eyes were dilated.
“Well, hello there,” this small woman drawled. She was compact, somehow perfect in her dimensions, all curves. I was stunned, staring at her too. She was so . . . bright, her hair beauty parlour red and those ears, subtle and yet blatant, worn with considered intent and daring. I wanted to speak about them immediately, ask about them.
“I’m Lilah. Lilah Hopkins. Pleased to make your acquaintance,” her speech was somehow quaint and outdated.
Lilah smiled breezily at me, avoiding eye contact. Her body language implied she knew Sebastian well, that they were familiar: already that vixen was working us.