The Touch Ch. 04byGreenFingers©
WARNING TO READERS - This is a long, rambling, multi-part story and VERY British. The individual chapters will make more sense if read in sequence.
Chapter 4: A Ride Home for Annabelle
Autumn at the garden centre was a lot slower than the spring or summer. There were fewer customers and most of the work that we needed to do was inside, either in the greenhouses or growing sheds, which was fortunate as winter that year came early and October and November were cold and wet; just bloody miserable.
Maggie had big plans for the business and the centre was getting a major refit and re-build over the winter months. The land on which the garden centre stood had originally been a farm and there was an old farm house, with brick outhouses and a large barn laid out in a giant C with a cobbled yard in front. A few years before, the farm house had been converted so that the ground floor housed the shop and staff room with the offices and stock room on the floor above. The outhouses and barn were just used for storage but Maggie had decided to have them fixed up and converted into small covered units for displaying plants and equipment and the barn was to become a snack and coffee bar. We had all spent most of October clearing the accumulated rubbish out of the buildings so that the builders would have a clear start in January.
Maggie had started to involve me much more in both the day to day management of the business, and the long term planning and finances. She seemed to value my input and the two of us spend a lot of time in the office planning planting and growing schedules, discussing the best and most viable use of the available greenhouse space, and studying catalogues for next season's purchases or going over the architect's drawings for the new buildings.
Maggie was my mother's twin. They were not identical twins but were enough alike to see they were twin sisters even though their respective life styles were reflected in their appearance; whilst Mum looked every day of her 40 years, Maggie appeared a lot younger and could probably pass for early thirties. There was a third sister, Aunt Susan who was a few years older and lived in York. Mum and Aunt Susan had fallen out over her marriage to my father twenty years ago, so Emma and I really only knew her through Christmas and birthday cards and presents which arrived by post.
I suppose that having a heap of money, no real worries, a career and access to the best beauty salons gave Maggie a running start, whilst Mum had had to cope with a life full of disappointments, a lousy, no good, husband, constant money problems and no real time for her self between working and bringing up two kids. For as long as I could remember, Maggie had always helped us out, supported Mum, helped with the bills when things were really dire had been a real friend to me over the past few years.
The last couple of years since we had been working together, Maggie and I had become very close, both personally and professionally. She had never treated me as a know nothing boy, always as a man and an equal and I think we both regarded each other as friends rather than aunt and nephew. The trouble was that the more time I spent with Maggie the more I liked her as a person and the more I saw her as an attractive woman rather than my aunt. I adored Maggie and would have done anything for her.
I remembered the joke that Debbie had made about Maggie being attracted to me but did not believe for a minute that it was in any way true.
I, however, did have the hots for her!
Like Mum, Maggie was small, about 5' 2" in height with what I thought was a really pretty face, she had good skin and sharp blue eyes and always wore good quality make-up, but for most of the summer months was suntanned from working outside. Her hair was honey blonde and always smelt of herbal shampoo and she usually wore it pulled back in a short pony tail, a style which I always found incredibly sexy on women. Her figure was neat, with a small waist, well shaped legs, a really tight arse, and small but well formed tits with pointy nipples that you could see through her shirts when she wore soft bras. Her clothes were always good quality and although she favoured tight jeans and a t-shirt or sweater about the garden centre she always looked an absolute knock out when she put on a dress to go out in the evening or to a business meeting.
I had to be careful because just looking at Maggie and letting my imagination run riot could give me a hard-on. I think that she sometimes noticed the bulge in my jeans, but was discreet enough not to say anything, and I don't think that she realised that she was the cause of my arousal.
It was the 31st of October and we were getting ready for the Guy Fawkes bonfire party on Saturday, which Maggie always held for the local kids in the back field behind the garden centre. The little tradition had started when her daughters were children and Mum would bring Emma and me over after school for the fireworks. There were sausages and baked potatoes and beans to eat and fizzy drinks and every one always had a lot of fun. After the twins got older and went away to boarding school, Maggie still did the event but now invited children from the surrounding area. It was always popular and could attract up to 30 kids and their parents, probably because it was free. This year we had lots of rubbish that had been cleared out of the outbuildings and the fire stack was already huge.
That afternoon I came out of the barn and glanced up towards the back field. Maggie was standing in the middle of the field, just standing, doing nothing. It was bloody freezing for the time of year and I was all bundled up in boots, corduroy trousers, a thick wool sweater all under working dungarees but Maggie just stood there in jeans and a denim shirt, I could see faint puffs of frozen breath floating away from her face. I ducked into the staff room and grabbed her Barbour wax coat and a scarf then pounded up to the field.
As a got closer I could see that she was looking up towards the big house. Her hands were thrust into her pockets and she was obviously cold as I could see her shivering as I approached. She heard me coming and turned her head to glance back but didn't move. I stepped round in front of her and looped the scarf over her head, knotted it around her throat and thrust out the coat. "For God's sake put this on, "I ordered, "it's bleeding arctic out here, you'll freeze to bloody death!" She shrugged on the jacket and zipped it up without saying anything, she just kept looking at the house.
I followed her line of sight and realised that she was watching, Uncle Ben's red Jaguar XJ which was parked in the drive by the front door. The house door was open and I could see his tall tweed covered outline standing by the open boot of the car. It was unusual for Uncle Ben to be home on Monday; recently he was rarely there even on Saturdays, although that flash motor was usually parked by the house on Sunday. He no longer helped around the garden centre at all and Maggie had contracted a local firm to do the machinery maintenance. I wasn't sorry, I disliked the wanker, and the less I saw of him the better.
Maggie was obviously upset, "What's going on?" I asked, "Is everything OK?" I nodded towards the house, "What is he doing here this time of the week?"
She took a deep breath then said simply, "He's packing to leave." Then added, "Not just a business trip; he's going for good!"
"What!" I exclaimed angrily, "You mean he's left you?"
Maggie shook her head sadly then said firmly, "No, I have finally had the balls to throw the bastard out!" She saw the question forming on my lips and went on, "Things have been rotten between us for ages; he's been screwing his PA at the London office for months, but I just didn't have the guts to confront him." She was not crying and really didn't seem to be very emotional, just sad. I put my arms around her to comfort her.
"Come on," I said turning her back towards the garden centre, "let's go in and get a coffee, there is no point in freezing our balls off out here." She didn't argue and we walked back to the office. I did not ask any questions and she didn't offer any further explanation. I poured her a cup of coffee from the pot, turned up the heater, then said "I'll be back in a minute I just have something to do," and left.
I was absolutely, fucking, furious! I just could not believe that the arsehole had done this to my Maggie. I felt angry and protective and it brought out the alpha male in me. I pulled on my thick working gloves and stormed up the lane to the house, crunching across the gravel drive just as the wanker was coming out of the house with a suit case in each hand. I didn't say anything I just marched straight up to him and kneed him in the balls as hard as I could. He let out a sort of high pitched squeal, dropped the cases and bent double, gasping. He turned his face towards me. I punched him hard on the nose and blood splattered onto the drive and across the side of his car. He collapsed to his knees, "Ooooh, my fugging nooth." he whimpered. I just turned without a word and stamped back down to the yard.
As I came into the office Maggie was just hanging up the telephone, she had obviously been talking to him. She went fucking mad! I don't think I have ever seen her so angry. "Don't you ever, dare, do anything like that again!" she stormed, "I can fight my own battles, thank you, I do not need you to be my knight in shining, bloody, armour!"
"I just thought...." I started, but she held up her hand like a school teacher silencing a class.
"No, Jamie, you didn't bloody think!" she went on, "So now I have got the job of talking that bastard out of going to the police and charging you with fucking assault! I do not want to be talking to him at all, let alone asking for favours! Now just go away and leave me to think!"
I went back to cleaning the barn but I was operating on auto-pilot, I was still angry with Ben, but was also angry with myself for upsetting and hurting Maggie even further. I desperately hoped that my stupidity would not affect our relationship. Then, I remembered the blood splattering from his nose onto his precious car.....God, but that had been awesome!
By the end of the afternoon I was feeling totally disheartened. I had seen Maggie drive off towards Salisbury in her Range Rover earlier and there was now no sign of the red Jag at the house. The other guys trooped off at six o'clock without even knowing that anything had happened, so I closed up, changed into my jeans and shirt, then went up to the office. Maggie had put another desk in the office for my use; it had originally faced hers across the room but I had turned it to look out of the window as I did not want her to catch me sitting watching at her. I drained the last of the coffee from the pot, and sat at my desk smoking and sulking.
It was about 7.30 when I heard a car on the back lane and then the side gate opening and closing. It was too late to put out the light and pretend that there was nobody there. I heard her footsteps on the stairs and the door opened. Maggie looked fantastic. She had obvious changed before going out earlier and was wearing a tight fitting, camel coloured, jersey wool dress, with black leather boots and belt, under an open black wool coat. Her pony tail was tied with a black velvet bow. It's normally quite difficult to get a hard on sitting down, but I did.
She just stood in the doorway saying nothing for what seem to be forever, then, "Come on," she said, "get your coat and take me for a drink." She turned and started down the stairs. I followed her down, dived into the staff room for my jacket then closed up the building again. By the time I had locked the side gate she was climbing into the passenger seat of the Range Rover. I opened the driver door and she tossed her keys onto the seat, "You drive," she said coolly, "One of us has to stay sober....and you've just been elected! Turn round and get out on the main road," she instructed.
We spent the evening at the Ship Inn at Burcombe; Maggie was obviously known there and introduced me to the landlord not as her nephew, but as 'My best friend, Jamie', and I knew that everything was good between us again. We enjoyed great steaks and a bottle of good red wine, and then after dinner sat side by side on a settle seat in the bar and I ordered coffee and Maggie waded into a good number of large brandies. The pub was cosy, with a large fire and we just sat very close together and smoked and talked, mostly about the plans for the garden centre although she did tell me that she had spent the afternoon at her bank in Salisbury making sure that 'Ben the Bastard' could not access any of her accounts and had been to see Marsha Olsen her lawyer to start divorce proceedings. I did notice that she was no longer wearing a wedding ring,' Ben the Bastard', appeared to be gone forever.
We left the pub sometime after eleven, Maggie was not really rat-arsed, but was swaying a little and clung tightly to my arm on the short walk back to the car. I drove back to her house and parked in the drive, then took her keys and open the front door for her. We stood on the doorstep and she reached up and put her arms around my neck, hugged me, and gave me a kiss on the cheek, "Goodnight, Jamie," she whispered in my ear, "and thanks for being in my corner when I needed you," then added," I was wrong earlier, it was great having my own, personal, knight in shining armour, and I am glad it was you." She turned and went into the house and I closed the door behind her and waited until I heard the key turn in the lock then walked down to the garden centre to get my moped and drive home.
By the time that I got in it was well after mid-night. Mum was still up, sitting watching an old film on the TV, she was on middle shift and was still wearing her light blue nurses uniform. I asked her if she wanted a cup of tea but she held up her half filled wine glass, turned the sound down on the telly, patted the sofa beside her and said," Come and sit with me for a bit, Jamie."
I sat beside her and she leaned in and put her head on my shoulder. It made me think of sitting in the pub with Maggie, they were so alike and I could imagine, just, that it was Maggie sitting there.
"Where have you been, tonight, kiddo?" she asked, not probing just motherly interest.
"I went for a drink with Auntie Maggie," I offered, not sure how much I should tell her, "we went out to Burcombe .......Maggie let me drive the Range Rover." I gave her a small kiss on the top of the head, "I'll take you out there one night soon, Mum, it's nice and the food was really good, just you and me, OK?" I felt a bit guilty that since I started work I had not spent the time with Mum that I used to.
"That would be really nice," she replied, "we haven't been out together for ages." She took a swig from her glass then added, "Maggie, telephoned earlier and told me what had happened with that bugger Ben," she must have felt me tense up, because she added, "it's OK, she told me everything.....I for one am glad you belted him, he is a smarmy sneaky, bastard and Maggie is well shot of him.....you did the right thing, a real man should stand up for the people he loves!" I felt myself flushing, but I think it was more from her choice of words than modesty.
I did not really want to get into talking about what had happened and so I quipped "Yeah, that's me, a knight in shining armour!" I stood up and kissed her on the forehead and said, "It's been a long day, Mum, I'm going to take a shower and turn in, OK" We said our goodnights and I went upstairs, stripped off and got into the shower. My head was full of images of Maggie in the skin tight dress she had worn tonight, the way she had snugged up close to me in the pub and the feel of her against me when she kissed me goodbye. My prick was standing up like a flag pole, so I turned the water up until it stung my skin and pumped my load to mental fantasies of being with Maggie.
Indirectly, it was lusting after Maggie that brought me into contact with Annabelle.
It was cold and pouring with rain the next day and I think we only saw two customers all morning. Jack was busy in the main greenhouses and I had two of the students working in the shop stock room unpacking a large delivery of Christmas gifts and decorations which had arrived that morning. I had spent the morning in the office with Maggie and Boris Keppel, the builder, going over the plans for the new café. It was after two when Boris left and Maggie and me made a late, make do lunch of cup-a-soup, and buttered crackers whilst looking at some brochures of other, larger garden centres around the country to give us ideas for our own expansion.
I had brought my swivel chair round to the back of her desk so that we were sitting side by side to look at the pamphlets together, and every time one of us moved our legs, or hips or arms brushed, and our hands were touching constantly as we passed papers and photographs, back and forth. I could smell the herbal shampoo that Maggie used and that sexy pony tail kept bobbing into my periphery vision whenever she moved her head. Being close to her was erotic, exciting and frustrating and I was afraid to move too much as my growing horny-ness had become a permanent state of erection. I knew that unless I backed off now I would not be able to keep my hands off of her and would do or say something stupid.
One of the best leaflets was for a large gardening and landscape business near to Norwich, over in Norfolk, which was owned by a guy that had been a friend of Maggie's first husband and looked to be very much in line with our own ideas. Maggie said that she had booked an appointment to visit the place this week but after the events of the previous day and the departure of 'Ben the Bastard' she now had more urgent things to do and would cancel and perhaps go some other time.
I grabbed the opening with both hands. "Why don't I go instead?" I suggested. A couple of days away from Maggie would give me time to calm down my hormones and think things through. "I could take the small van, and book into a motel for a couple of nights, look around, take some photos and be back for bonfire night on Saturday. We are not that busy, so Jack and the lads can manage for a couple of days without me!"
"Yes, that's a brilliant idea," she responded, "I will ring Charles Lowe, the owner, and tell him that you will be coming in my place." She swivelled around to face me, there was not much space and her knees pushed casually between mine, causing a lump to rise in my throat matching the one in my trousers. I just knew it was right to get away from her for a couple of days. It turned out that she had already booked a room at a hotel in Norwich and insisted that I used the Range Rover for the trip. I would have been happy to use the van or the VW Polo that she had been using to teach the twins to drive, but she was insistent and I was really chuffed to think that she not only trusted me to make the trip but with her expensive car as well.
I took the Range Rover home that night and set out early the next morning, with my old rugger sports bag in the boot holding my jeans and a change of shirt and underclothes and shaving kit. I was wearing my brand new, navy blue, three piece suit which I had only bought that summer for a mate's wedding. It was the first proper suit I had ever owned and I saw it as a symbol of moving up in the right direction. Maggie paid me a more than generous salary, I didn't spend a lot, and I was starting get a solid, bank balance, even after paying Mum her housekeeping each month.
The drive up to Norwich was a total, bloody pig! It took less than 2 hours to get to London even in rush hour traffic, but another four and a half hours to get across the country roads of Suffolk and Norfolk to Norwich, most of the roads were single lane, crowded and slow moving with traffic jams even at mid-morning, I gave up trying to count the number of agricultural vehicles and milk tankers in the queue ahead of me. By the time that I got to Norwich I had listened to Maggie's in-car collection of Mozart cassettes, twice. That was something else we had in common, we both love classical music, jazz and reading. I do like pop music but people always seem surprised when I tell them my favourite artiste is Mozart and that regardless of how much work I have on I read at least two books a week, but I really do.