Equal Shares Ch. 24bysteveh11©
On Monday morning, Stan saw Denise walk into the office. He sat back in his chair and watched as the young redhead walked up to him. Denise was wearing some tight tan-coloured trousers, a navy blue cashmere sweater with a white button-down blouse layered underneath it, traditional enough but the top two buttons of the blouse were open, and the trousers were just tight enough to enhance her figure rather than just display any bulges there were.
"I won't be needing a lift, I'll drive myself to the school tonight, Stan. I'll be going out with Tom afterwards," she told him.
"All right then, Denise," Stan replied. "You and he got on well on Friday night then?"
"Oh, yes, he's a laugh," she said. "He's not afraid of enjoying himself. We had a nice meal, then we went to a club and danced for a while."
Denise turned and looked over her shoulder at Stan in a move that was almost a carbon copy of the look that Anne had given Stan that night of their own first date. It had a similar effect, and it was a good job Stan was sitting.
She grinned at him and sauntered off. Stan paused a moment, then got on with his work.
- - - - - - - - - -
Elizabeth had had a nice weekend, too. She was at the table near their desks, sorting out some filing, when she turned to Stan.
"James came over to see me on Sunday," she told him.
"Mmm?" replied Stan, who was deep into a failure analysis.
"I said, James came over to see me on Sunday!" she said, with some asperity.
"Ah. All's well there, then? You and James getting along famously? Let's see the ring? When's the wedding?"
"Oh, You! Nothing like that. He's a very good friend, and he came over to help in my garden, that's all. We tidied up in the borders, he mowed my lawn, that sort of thing. Then we sat outside for a while in the sunshine and had a drink."
"What made you bring it up, Elizabeth?"
"I don't know, really," she said, slightly wistful. "I was just thinking of the weekend, and so on, and it came into my head."
Before Stan could think of a comment, Elizabeth picked up some filing and got on with her work.
- - - - - - - - - -
That evening, it was Yves' turn to 'meet and greet' the students as they entered the dance class. He looked up as Anne came through the door and smiled warmly at the blonde.
Anne was wearing black and gold again, this time a dress that stopped just above her knee but flared widely allowing her to move, and with a high collar but fitted across the bust. Stan had described it as 'form following', which was exactly the effect desired. She had her gold shoes on again, they went well with her dress, and of course her hair colour matched as well. Anne'soutfit was completed by a pair of small gold dangly earrings. It was a head-turning combination and it certainly worked with Yves.
Stan entered behind her and shut the door -- it was a chilly early September night -- in time to hear Yves say "Welcome Anne, Welcome! You are well, I trust? Ah, Stan, good to see you as well, of course!"
Turning from the door back towards Yves, Stan grinned at the older man. "Yes, and you really mean that, don't you?" he told him as he gripped the other's hand in a warm greeting as the other stepped back from giving Anne a peck on the cheek.
"Go straight in, we're almost all here and will start in about five minutes," Yves told them, so they walked together into the main hall.
There, Stan saw Denise standing by the wall next to Tom, chatting away animatedly. She turned, as if to see who had just walked in, and waved before continuing her non-stop chatter.
This was their second Waltz lesson, and it went smoothly enough at first. Stan partnered Pamela again, while Anne was asked to partner a newcomer, a young (and nervous) man named Paul. Both successfully went through the practice, being shown various moves and generally soaking up 'how to Waltz.'
At the break, Pamela and Tom were in front of Stan and Anne as they waited to get their refreshments.
Stan watched as Tom put his hand on Pamela's ass. Pamela swatted it away and Tom did it again.
A second time Pamela slapped the hand away, and this time she turned to him and muttered something in his ear. Stan saw Tom smirk.
Stan seethed. He didn't really know why, even, but he could feel his hackles rising.
They got their drinks. Stan and Anne stood against the wall, sipping. Anne was chatting to Belinda, standing next to her, while Stan, on her other side, watched everyone.
Pamela had moved away from Tom, looking annoyed. Denise obviously hadn't seen anything as she emerged from the Ladies' room just at that moment. Tom saw her and smiled, going to her, putting his arm around her waist and talking.
Stan's attention was drawn back to Yves and Belinda as they called for the evening to restart. This time Stan partnered Carol.
"Did you see that Tom just now?" murmured Carol into Stan's ear. "I swear if it was me I'd slap his face. The nerve! Then he has the barefaced cheek to make all goody-goody with that nice new lady, what's her name..."
"Denise!" muttered Stan. "Yes, I saw it."
The dance continued, and then Belinda took over from Carol, who was swept up into the arms of an exuberant Yves.
"Yves is on top form tonight. Wait until you see our demonstration -- he loves the Waltz, it's such a romantic dance."
Stan was only too pleased to take his mind off Tom.
"Yes, Yves has been enjoying himself all night, hasn't he? Carol's pretty good at this, too."
"Oh, you're coming along fine Stan, yourself. Don't disparage your abilities."
Somehow Belinda brought the gallant out of Stan.
"It's dancing with you that makes me able to do so well, Belinda!" he told her. Belinda's head went back as she gaily laughed, telling him a moment later, "Oh, if you were around when I met Yves he'd have had a rival, I think! Flatterer!"
Too soon, Yves called a halt and told the class that Belinda and he would do their demonstration now. Stan had been really enjoying himself for the first time that night, and was disappointed that it had come to an end, but it did mean that he was able to put his arm around Anne again.
Pamela stood next to him on his other side. She leaned across and said, "You were enjoying that dance, weren't you Stan? I watched. It's a good job for you that Anne didn't!"
Stan grinned. "Oh, I think Anne knows that Belinda's no rival for my affections!"
Yves cued up the music, and the two instructors began. Belinda was right, this was passionate yet romantic, with a sweetness to the sensuousness of the dancing.
Tom and Denise were next to Pamela.
Suddenly Pamela turned and smacked Tom's arm. "Leave me alone!" she hissed.
Stan turned and told Tom, "Yes, leave the lady alone, Tom. She's too good for the likes of you." Stan himself was taken by surprise at his reaction.
"Mind your own business, old man. You've got yourself sorted, leave me alone!" Tom snarled at him.
"You leave Anne out of this! Actually, while we're at it, you leave Denise out of this as well! You're not good enough for her -- you're only going to hurt her!"
People were turning to stare.
One of them was Denise.
"Stan, you stay out if it. Don't interfere in my life," she told him.
Tom smirked again. Stan was getting very tired of seeing that expression.
"Denise, this, this person isn't fit to wipe your shoes, yet you're virtually throwing yourself at him! Don't do it!" he told her. Tom's smirk faded, but it was replaced by anger. Out of the corner of his eye, Stan saw movement -- a tall blonde in black was shifting to his side.
"You think you're good enough for her, do you? Well, if that's the case, stop interfering, like the lady said," Tom growled threateningly at him.
"Stan?" he heard from the figure to his right. He ignored it.
"You bloody wolf, all you're after is one thing. I hope to God she doesn't give it to you!" he told Tom, now really upset.
He was astonished to feel a slap to his face -- from Denise!
"Stop interfering in my life, Stan!" she shouted at him. "I'm trying to enjoy myself, have some fun, and you're pushing your nose in. You've found someone else, when you told me you weren't ready for a relationship!" She shook her head as she nearly spat the words at him. "Well, who the hell do you think you are? You're old enough to be my father, but you're NOT -- so stay the HELL out of my life!"
Denise turned and stormed off. Stan was stunned. Tom looked insufferably pleased, and turned to follow Denise. Stan was then jerked to his right.
"Stanley Hinch, I'm not going to forgive you for this!" Anne hissed at him. "I thought you didn't feel for her -- well it's obvious you do!"
Stan couldn't hold her eye. He looked away, and saw Belinda and Yves looking upset, displeased and shocked in various measures.
"Don't you look away from me!" Anne told him, menacingly. "You're with me, Stanley!
Stan met her eyes. Anne was furious. Stan was completely confused. He didn't really understand what had just happened, or what he was feeling. He did the only thing he could think of... he turned away from Anne and addressed the room.
"Um. Sorry everyone. I think we got a little carried away, just then. Sorry," he called out, then looked at Yves and Belinda. "I really am most sorry, I can't apologise enough. I think we'll be leaving, now."
Pamela touched his arm and mouthed "Thanks," looking sorry for him. He gave a quick smile in response, but his heart wasn't in it.
Anne turned and stalked off towards the cloakrooms. Stan followed, downcast, miserable and still very confused.
- - - - - - - - - -
The temperature gauge in Stan's Mondeo reported a fairly chilly night outside. That might have been true outside the car, but inside it was just plain icy cold. Anne hardly spoke a word to him, other than to peremptorily tell him to take her home.
"Straight home, Stan!" were her actual words. Stan wanted to talk, to try to explain, but he knew better than to attempt it. Besides, he didn't have his own thoughts in order, yet. He would need to work out what had happened himself, before trying to talk, to explain, to apologise to Anne.
He reached Anne's house, and she flung open the door and got out, without saying a word. The car door slammed behind her as she walked stiffly up the path to her front door. Stan watched sadly as the door opened and shut, without a single glance back from the lady he was in love with.
- - - - - - - - - -
Stan drove home, alone. His mind was a whirl of images. Tom's smirk, Anne's icy cold face, Denise's fury, Belinda's disapproval... Stan felt he'd lost it all.
He hardly saw the road he was driving on. He pulled up outside his house not knowing how he'd got there, sat for a moment or two, then automatically opened the door and got out. Still without knowing what he was really doing, he shut the door, locked the car and walked to his front door.
There was one person he could turn to, one person who would help him, just one who knew him so well. 'Caron?' He walked into his living room and fell onto the sofa, closing his eyes as he did so.
'Caron? What did I do? What do I do now?'
He felt his wife's love wash over him, saw her, saw the concern in her face, the compassion in her eyes. He thought back to the dance studio. He'd seen Denise, his friend, being... what? Betrayed? 'Not really,' his inner self told him. He opened his eyes again.
He knew he'd over-reacted. Maybe that was it, but then again... Tom was already, still was actually, after another -- after Pamela -- while at the same time apparently courting Denise. Stan tried to analyse his feelings.
Was that jealousy he'd felt? What did he have to be jealous of?
'Nothing. Nothing at all,' he told himself. 'Denise was only a friend, wasn't she... Wasn't she?'
No! No, she wasn't "just a friend" at all, he realized. Denise was much more than that to him. Stan wasn't jealous of her ability and right to befriend another, but he'd felt protective towards her. 'Now what?!'
'Now you have to put that firmly to one side, and concentrate on winning Anne over,' he thought. 'Anne was furious with you!'
Why was that? Oh, of course, Anne knew he had deeper feelings for Denise. She'd known that all along. Oh... dear! There hadn't been time to cement their own relationship, and Anne felt him having feelings for another.
This was going to take work, patience, and finesse to pull them back together. Stan wasn't sure he could manage it, but he resolved to try. As he got ready for bed, he once more reached out for Caron's comforting touch. He felt her warmth come over him again. Caron understood. Caron always understood.
- - - - - - - - - -
Tuesday morning came. Stan made his way to work, and walked into reception. Elaine wasn't there - she was on holiday herself for the rest of the week. So it was Faye who saw him enter and called out "Good Morning!" to him cheerily.
Stan felt anything but cheerful. He grunted a reply, walked on through to his desk, and sat down.
He barely even saw Elizabeth, and grunted a non-committal reply to her own "Good Morning, Stan!"
The next thing he knew there was a cup of coffee placed on his desk. He looked up and saw a concerned looking Elizabeth standing next to him.
"You look like you need something stronger, Stan, but that'll have to do. Now, what's wrong?"
Stan picked up the cup, and sipped at it, while wondering what to tell Elizabeth.
"Um. Last night. I, er, I -- I think I blew it with Anne... over Denise."
Elizabeth's concern became even more obvious, her face was now very grave. But she walked back around and sat opposite Stan at her own desk. Then she leant forward and asked him what had happened.
Stan had had a night and a morning to try to organise his thoughts about that, but hadn't really succeeded. He thought it might help to talk to Elizabeth, that it might help him to sort his feelings out.
So, he told her.
"There's this guy at the dance lessons, Tom. He's been trying it on with one of the younger ladies there, a girl named Pamela, for weeks, and she knocks him back at every turn. Still, he keeps trying.
"But now Denise has fastened onto him, Lord knows why. They've been out together, and as far as I know they went out again last night. But he hasn't stopped trying it on with Pamela. I'm not talking about innocent flirting, here. He's got his hands where they're not wanted at every opportunity, and he'd really, really like a lot more than that. Somehow he's clever enough not to let Denise see that.
"Anyway, He did it again last night and I just blew up at him. He told me to mind my own business, and Denise got herself involved. She ended up slapping my face and shouting that I should allow her to have her own fun, that I wasn't ready to have a relationship with her but I already had one going with Anne... Then Anne turned into the remote ice-bitch that only she can be, and I ended up at home, alone, wondering what had hit me."
Elizabeth had her hand over her mouth. "Oh, goodness, Stan. Do you think you'll be able to patch things up with Anne?"
"I don't know, Elizabeth," he told his old friend. "I really, really don't know."
- - - - - - - - - -
Later that morning, Stan decided to try to speak to Anne. He walked over to the Lab, and found her holding imperious court over some of the other engineers.
Stan waited for her to finish, then moved towards her. Anne saw him and gave him a look. Stan flinched, she was baleful. He'd seen others on the receiving end of her displeasure, but now she seemed to be at her most brutal.
"What do you want, Mr. Hinch?" she asked. The tone was enough to freeze nitrogen.
"I think we need to talk, Anne," he told her, gently, submissively.
"I think you did enough talking last night!" she said, each syllable so cold it was almost cryogenic.
"Just go, Stan, go!" She turned from him. He stood there for a long moment, and then he walked away, heavy hearted.
He didn't see the tear that ran down Anne's face, or hear the slight catch in her breath. 'Stan, wait!' she called out, but only in her mind.
- - - - - - - - - -
That afternoon Denise was in reception, chatting with Faye, when Anne came through. Denise instantly stopped talking and turned away from the tall blonde.
Anne paused. This wasn't the redhead's fault, after all.
She couldn't think of the words.
"Anne, I'm sorry about last night, but Stan should know better than to interfere in my life when he's going out with you!" hissed a clearly still upset Denise.
Anne wasn't going to take that.
"Well, you're just being stupid. That Tom of yours has his hands over anyone he can get near to at those classes, and you refuse to see it. Whether Stan was right to say it or not, he's right about that and the sooner you realize it the sooner you'll dump that cad!"
Anne turned and walked regally off. As she did she heard Denise's voice ring out, "Why don't you people just let me live my own life and quit telling me what to do! Christ!"
At the doorway, Anne turned and told her, sweetly, "Because you're not capable of making mature decisions, Denise. You need someone to look after you. Perhaps if you grow up, we'll stop telling you how to live your life." Then she walked on through the door, allowing it to swing soundly shut behind her.