Bridge with the Stauntons Ch. 02byshaunreagh©
Note to gentle reader: This is a follow-on from Bridge With The Stauntons. A number of readers seemed to think it might be a good idea to do a sequel. The more I thought about it the more I came round to agreeing. But the fun with dealing with Judy is as much what goes on in her mind, as what she does, and others do, with her body. This part, Part II, deals with her mind, and the situation she finds herself inveigled into. It is also the set-up for part III. Those of you who lack the patience to join her in her mind, and thereby more fully appreciate what happens next, well ... sorry, this may be slow going. But it may be worth it.
Here we are again, with Judy.
Some months later ...
Brian got the job. In some ways I felt it would have been better had he not, but he did, so that was that. My problem, if that was a fair way to describe it, was that I could think of no way of explaining to Brian what it was about his job that concerned me, either in terms of concerned, as in being involved in the process, or concerned, as in being worried about what the process had involved. I failed to see how I could explain either, without also explaining what happened beneath the card table, and in the kitchen afterwards. And I didn't think I could do that. So I held my tongue.
Brian, of course, was over the moon about the job. It was an exceptionally job for someone of his limited experience. And as for me, well, I would heal with time, I thought. And true enough, over time, as the attractions of the job sunk home, (and the Stauntons kept their distance, so to speak,) I started to feel that, on balance, I was glad we got the job -- or rather, Brian got the job. After all, I rationalised to myself in the shower some days after the event, my having giving myself over (briefly) to Mr Staunton, as my part in persuading him that Brian would be a good person to have on his team, was hardly excessive in the circumstance.
As I say, it was a very good job.
I had lost nothing, after all. Nothing concrete, at least. Nothing you could place on a table and say: 'I lost that'. I wasn't injured by what had taken place, or physically disfigured or disabled in any way. When the 'downside' and the 'upside' were compared, in fact, I think we had come out on top! There were considerable advantages in the job, after all. Immediate advantages. It allowed us to pay off the mortgage on our house for one thing, thanks to the Home Loan facility Staunton offered Brian on his first day at work. And the firm provided Brian with a car, which we hadn't expected. And which meant our beat up old VW Beetle could now be MY car, rather than 'ours'. (I'd always wanted a car of my own.) And the pay ... Well, the pay was spectacular!
After two months passed, uneventfully, I was feeling pretty good about life. So what if I had been 'encouraged', if that was the word, to give up some part of myself for the cause? The cause of Brian and me and our home and our future together. If a husband couldn't rely, just a little bit, on a wife's help in this dog-eat-dog world of business, and career advancement, and all that other corporate stuff ... then what good was a wife? It was surely the least I could do. It would remain my little secret.
But then ... Sophie phoned.
Sophie, with a plumy English accent, who announced that she was Staunton's PA, phoning on behalf of Mr Staunton, and that arrangements had been made for this Friday.
"Ah ... ah ...um, " I stammered at the phone.
"Friday the 18th," she elaborated, feeling, perhaps, that I needed it explained.
"For ... what," I stuttered incoherently.
Sophie had one of these sophisticated, highly efficient sounding voices that makes one feel inadequate. It made me feel inadequate, at least. I'd just come in the kitchen door with the shopping. The door was still open. My foot was snaked behind me to kick it closed. My armful of foodstuffs in three paper bags was threatened to tip on the floor. I had the telephone clamped between cheek and shoulder at an angle that threatened to drop that as well.
"Bridge," Sophie said/announced/declared, as if it were the name of a very expensive wine, or a member of the British royal family. "Mr Staunton terms it a 'rematch'," she added, almost distastefully, as if the very idea of something as proletarian as cards was somehow beneath her.
"I don't ..." I started, as a can of anchovies slipped from one of the bags and hit the kitchen floor with a sound like a shotgun going off.
"What was that?" asked the phone.
"Anchovies," I said. "But they're okay," I added. At least I hoped they were.
Silence the other end of the line.
"It was a can," I went on to explain, for some reason feeling that Sophie, with the plumy English accent, who was PA to Staunton, Chairman of the Board, and generally very important person -- where Brian and I were concerned; Sophie as well I imagined -- needed to be kept in the picture where my anchovies were concerned. But judging from the silence the other end of the line, Sophie didn't share this view.
There was an audible sigh at the other end, and then, "The details are as follows," she announced, in a clipped efficient manner, clearly deciding I was not to be trusted with any part of this conversation. "Next Friday, the eighteenth, at eight pee em." (That's how she said it, 'Eight Pee Em,'). "Mr Staunton and his partner will arrive at your home to play bridge. The 'rematch' he talked of. Mr Staunton will be prompt. He does not like impromptitude."
Was there such a word?
"I ... ah," I started, clasping my hand around the bottom of a bag as a box of cheese crackers fell out the top. I was suddenly determined to stamp my authority on matters. There was simply no way I was going to play bridge with the Stauntons! Not again.
But the voice on the phone cut me off. "I have been instructed to arrange food. Italian Okay?"
I wasn't sure.
"I... ah," I started, as two cans of baked beans fell from the outermost bag to the floor, and were immediately joined by a bag of spaghetti for a nearer paper bag.
"I understand you work on Friday afternoons?" said the phone.
My eyes were darting nervously over the foodstuff that was starting to litter my kitchen floor. This was true, I did work on Friday afternoons. I had a teacher position in an afternoon play school across town, and didn't get home until seven three nights a week. One of them was Friday. "I ah," I started, about to confirm this, wondering who had told her.
"One last thing," came back down the line as if I hadn't spoken; which I suppose I hadn't, not intelligibly at least. "Mr Staunton has a special request." She gave a 'harrumph' down the line after this, as if she found the conversation growing more and more distasteful by the moment. "And I quote, 'Would you please humour an old man and wear what you wore the last time you played'." Pause. "Do you know what that means?"
Do I know what WHAT means?
How we played, or what we played at?
Or what I was wearing before he took most of it off!
"Regrettably," I started to say, ad libbing like mad, about to point out that my husband, Brian, did not enjoy cards. And was hopeless at them anyway -- even Snap. Plus, I was intending to add, I believed we had another engagement that night. Also, I thought, Brian's mother was planning to visit. (She was always threatening to.) So, accordingly, and unfortunately, we would not be able to host this ... 'rematch,' ... as Staunton chose to term it. But before I could get it out, before I even started in fact, I was interrupted again, by the woman on the other end of the line.
"Brian has approved this, by the way," said the woman on the other end of the line.
"I ... ah ...oh, " I said, feeling a bit like a gold fish. (Gutted.)
"Shall we say Italian?" she said, as if checking off points on a list.
I really wasn't sure if it was.
"May I take that as a Yes?" she pressed.
"I ... ah ...em," I stammered.
But she had gone. The line was dead.
On Tuesday afternoon Brian had to go upstate to check on something or other at a plant the firm was planning to buy. 'Massive Expansion' was in the air, apparently, Brian informed me. Expansion that, 'could do him no harm,' he also advised, touching the side of his nose in a dramatically secretive manner as if it were highly confidential. Like a state secret. Who exactly would I tell, I wondered, saying nothing. (You know what men are like.) The four year olds at playschool? The check-out clerk at the supermarket? Maybe the gas station attendant, Jimmy, who was all of eighty years old!
Brian was still away, on Thursday. On the phone, late Thursday night, me in bed at home, him in a drab motel room upstate, I brought up the subject of Friday's bridge. I wondered, airily, if he could perhaps stay up there another day or two so that the bridge would be cancelled. I suggested it was something he wouldn't enjoy. It did not go down well!
"Judy. How could you suggest such a thing!" he gasped, aghast. "Being asked to play Bridge with the Stauntons is the pinnacle of acceptance in the firm. There is no greater kudos. No greater honour. Do you have any idea how jealous my colleagues were when they found out." I may have hummed and hahed a bit at this. "That Mr Staunton likes to spend leisure time with us is a great feather in my cap. In your cap too, my angel."
It wasn't the feather I was worried about. Nor where it might be put.
"It's just that ..." I said, vaguely.
"I need your support in this," said Brian, cutting across me, sounding like a harassed accountant.
"Of course, my pet. You have it. You have it," I said hurriedly, back-pedalling fast, changing the subject. "Have your read the book I packed?" I asked.
I'd given him a book on the ACOL bidding system. One I got from my father when bridge at home was mandatory, every Friday night.
"Yes, yes, yes," he said, still sounding harassed. Still accountant-like.
But I knew he hadn't opened it.
We exchanged a few whispered sweet nothings over the line. Then a few kisses. Then replaced the phones, laid our heads on our respective pillows -- two hundred lousy miles apart -- and contented ourselves, with ourselves. (As a couple, since our marriage -- since a few months before it, in fact -- we have tended to be active in bed. On a nightly basis, one might say. Sometimes more. Quite often more, in fact. Not to put too fine a point on it, sexually, we appear to be 'imaginatively demonstrative', as I once read it described in a magazine. This was now Brian's third night away and his absence was making me just a tad fidgety in that department, if you catch my drift.)
I would not do it. I simply would not!
I was in my bedroom. It was seven fifteen 'pee em' on Friday evening, and the matter of dress had preyed on my mind all day. A good bit of yesterday too. If Mr High-and-Mighty Staunton, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Firm where my husband worked, thought he could invite himself round to my home to play bridge and dictate what I should wear when he came, then Mr High and Mighty Staunton had another think coming. I would show him. I would show them all.
(And where the hell was Brian?)
A pair of floppy jeans and a thick fleece jumper were laid out on my bed. I intended to wear my full length Velcro work-out suit beneath the jeans and fleece. I would also wear a sanitary pad between my legs to protect my crotch. I'd even bought a substantially sized one. It was backed with plastic sheeting -- but the more I examined it now the more I wondered if in fact I'd bought an incontinence pad by mistake. Which is when the phone rang.
"Sophie Sandringham," said the phone.
"Who?" I asked, still looking at the large incontinence pad in my hand.
"Sophie Sandringham, PA to the CEO."
Oh, THAT Sophie!
"Yes?" I said, tossing the pad on the bed as if it were a cockroach.
"Slight change of plan," said the phone.
"Yes?" I said, all ears.
"Your husband's held up at the plant."
HALLELUYA! I thought, punching the air. "Oh, what a shame," I said, relief flooding through me. "Well, never mind. We can do it some other time." The words gushed forth like water from a faucet. I punched the air again.
"That's not what I meant," said the plumy English accent on the phone. "As Brian can't come, we've had to get a fourth."
"Who has?" I asked, fist frozen in the air.
"I'm sorry," I said, eyes screwed shut, fist now banging my brow. "I don't understand what you're saying."
There was another sigh from down the line. (This wasn't her first.) I managed to bite back the threatened retort!
"As your husband is still at the plant, and the plant is two hundred miles away, we, meaning me on behalf of the CEO, have had to enlist the services of a fourth for bridge."
"Oh?" I said, sinking onto my bed, shoulders drooping.
"And the fourth is me," said Sophie, sounding as pissed off as I felt.
"You," I said, head down.
"Yes," the voice said softly. Almost sadly. Sophie was clearly upset.
"And you had something else on," I guessed, out loud, suddenly feeling an affinity for this plumy voiced PA to the Emperor.
"Yes," she said.
Hot date, I surmised, taking a deep breath and reaching beneath me for the lump of sanitary pad/incontinence whatsit I was sitting on. "So we're in this together?" I glared at the large lump of white plastic backed gauze that I'd brought from beneath me, and now held up to the light. How could you walk with something this size jammed down your pants?
"Looks like it, doesn't it," said the phone, quietly. There was hesitation from the other end, after which she continued in the same quieter, more personal voice she seemed to adopt when not being the hot-shot PA. "Anyway. I was asked to inform you about your husband, Brian, being held up. I'm sorry about that."
"Not your fault," I conceded, realising there would now be two unwilling players in the game. But then I figured, another woman would be present, Staunton's PA. If Stauntons wife AND his PA couldn't keep the randy old bastard in line, then who the heck could? "What will you wear?" I asked, staring at the thick jeans and Velcro suit, and fleece, that lay next to me on the bed.
"My boss has this theory about covering up in the evenings," said Sophie, plumy accent put away for now. "The more you have to show the more you show. The less you have to show the more you cover up." I didn't respond to that, but I did wonder which category she fell into. Midway between the two, perhaps? How old were PA's with plumy English accents these days?
"We'll be there at eight," she said, a little sullenly, ringing off.
I decided, half way through my shower, that I would do things by the book. Three women to one man, after all -- even if the one man was bloody Staunton -- would surely make matters safe. I would, therefore, go along with what Brian, and Staunton, had asked. I would wear what I wore the last time. That way Brian could never accuse me of 'not supporting him'. Nor could I be accused of refusing to do what his boss had asked.
I dressed myself in my little black dress, my little black thong, no bra, charcoal self-supporting stockings, black dress pumps with the three inch heel, silver stud earrings, a dab or two of Chanel, and a hair thin silver chain around my waist. (This last was an affectation I sometimes adopt, when I'm feeling particularly pleased at how I look after my shower!)
But it wasn't three women, after all.
It was going to be, I discovered as I opened the front door in response to the chimes, two women and two men. Mrs Staunton was missing. In her place was a grey-haired patrician sort of gentleman with the softest handshake imaginable, and Sophie Sandringham, in a wrap that Staunton removed as she came through the door.
But Sophie ... Wow! ... Sophie was simply stunning! Where I wore a black dress with high hem and spaghetti straps, hers was red. Where my stockings were charcoal hers were oxblood. Where my pumps with heels were patent black, hers were patent red. And where my hair was black and cut short like a boy's, hers was silky blonde and worn long, like a girl's. How could anyone possibly work with a PA who looked that good?
The Italian food was brought in by a uniformed chauffeur, I'm not sure whose.
It was eaten around the kitchen table, despite the fact all four of us were dressed well enough to have dined with considerable aplomb at the main table in Viccenzo's, the most fashionable restaurant in town. I suggested we eat in our dining room -- it is actually an alcove off the sitting room -- but as I had already set up the card table there, Staunton decided we'd eat in the kitchen. The other gentleman agreed. I didn't argue. (I don't think Sophie cared!) So the kitchen it was.
Elgar Marone, EM as Staunton called him, our fourth at bridge, not merely had a handshake that almost wasn't there, he wouldn't look me in the eye when he spoke. And had a voice so soft most of the time I didn't catch what he was saying. I had no idea who he was, other than 'a financier', whatever that was. But as nobody seemed to want to talk about him, or even to him, come to that, I took the hint, and did the same.
I had cleverly -- well, sort of cleverly -- arranged seating for dinner so that Staunton was at one end of the kitchen table, and I was at the other. I had made the excuse, having allocated him his seat at one end, and the others the sides, that I had to be near the kitchen sink. Don't ask me why. (Fortunately the others didn't either.)
The food was delicious. In fact, it was more than that. It was probably the best Italian food I have ever tasted. And with two bottles of Barolo wine (that's what it said on the label) to wash it down, it was more of a feast than a supper. After we had finished I didn't want to play bridge. I wanted to go to bed. Preferably with a warm husband! (Good food and wine always has this effect on me!)
"Had a blanket last time," said Staunton.
He was nodding at the card table I'd set up in the alcove off the sitting room. I'd bought it specially. It was a proper card table with a green baize surface. It didn't need a blanket.
"Prefer it with a blanket," said Staunton, glowering at Sophie, his PA, as if the lack of a blanket was somehow her fault. She looked at me enquiringly.
I thought to object that we didn't need a blanket. I was willing, even, if push came to shove, to say that the blanket made it hotter under the table, and we didn't want that. I was even prepared, (at least I was kidding myself that I was,) to mention the unfortunate way knees and legs might touch if the under-table area was covered. But not being too sure about the other gentleman present -- who he was, why he was here, whether or not he was important, (he seemed to be important) -- I probably didn't defend the lack of a blanket with sufficient verve to sway the Stoughton juggernaut. Perhaps the Barolo didn't help much either. Whatever ... we ended up draping the blanket over the table just like last time.
But then I played my trump card!
I had planned it during my shower, when deciding to go along with Staunton's dress code requirement. No matter how many women were there -- and at the time I had thought there would be three -- I was determined to usurp any under-table plans that I was sure he harboured, (cosseted hotly in his grubby little mind!). So, as we hovered around the newly covered card table, Sophie straightening the overhang to ensure it was uniform all round while I removed the foil covers from two packs of cards I'd bought for the evening, I looked at Staunton with my most devastating 'come hither' look, and said, with enough innuendo to sink a sizeable aircraft carrier, "I'd love to play with you."