The first time Melissa shared Gary's bed it was `one huge, bloody disaster'

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The first time Melissa shared Gary's bed it was, as she puts it, "one huge, bloody disaster - but also quite funny if I think about it now". Gary is more reluctant to see the humour in his humiliation, but remarks with a rueful half-smile that "it's a bit of a miracle we're still together". His problem in negotiating the tunnel of love was that as the single parent of five-year-old Alice he did not need reminding that his own desires came a distant second. His daughter had become "clingy and a lot more dependent" as a result of the trauma of her parents' acrimonious bust up, so Gary decided he would not upset her by bringing home new lovers.

For 10 months he remained a "virtual celibate", but eventually, after an intense office flirtation, he found a babysitter and took the plunge with Melissa. Despite his self-admonitions, he invited her home after their date, with bashful instructions that, "just this once", she should leave at the crack of dawn because his daughter might be surprised to see a new face at the breakfast table.

But as he was soon to discover, the course of true lust seldom runs smooth for lone fathers. Alice woke at 1am and clambered into bed while they were in "mid-stream, so to speak". Melissa scuttled home, feeling "dreadfully embarrassed at having been caught under the covers". Gary felt "great remorse" about his shocked and confused daughter and "toe-curling shame" about his girlfriend.

"For a week he avoided my eye every time he spotted me," Melissa recalls, "but I was actually quite attracted by the fact that he seemed to be such a caring father and such a sensitive soul. So I asked him out again and he persuaded me it was time to meet Alice again. He said: `This is my friend Missie', and Allie said glumly: `I saw her in your bed'."

But this belated introduction did not provide the anticipated resolution. "Whenever we got close, she would hop onto his lap or hold his hand, and when I started sleeping over, she would always say she was having a bad dream, and then climb in. It was like when I was a teenager and had to sneak in a quickie while my parents were out. Then there were our dates - Alton Towers one weekend, the zoo the next. So-o-o romantic! While I understood all this, I wouldn't be telling the truth if I didn't say I resented it, though I tried not to let Gary sense it.

"In the end things worked out quite nicely" with Alice. "She eventually came to accept me, I think, and I quite like her these days - most of the time. I relate to her more like a friend and I never discipline her, and she doesn't climb into bed between us any more. Hardly ever, anyway."