Fi Pt. 02byEgmont0409©
On Thursday Gwen called publisher Guy Fennell to break off their adulterous relationship.
"It's Gwen. Look would it be okay if we were to stop having our Friday you know what?"
After a surprised pause Guy answered, "Probably not. What's come up?"
"I have a housekeeper and she's so bright I feel she'd be on to me in a flash. She's already dollied me up and got me going to the gym."
Guy laughed and asked if the housekeeper was gay.
"Has she lined you up with a guy?"
"Not yet but she's going to do that. I feel it in my water."
Gwen imagined Guy running a finger inside his shirt collar, although he wouldn't be aware of that substitution for the action he used on a vagina.
"Look," he said slowly. "I think this is rather a good idea. We have been at it for a long time and I understand the longer you continue in adultery the more likely you'll be found out."
"So you are agreeable that we finish?"
"Yes. I suppose I should give you a present."
"No your dick has been a lovely present over the years. I suppose this means I'm fired."
"Ah, well will I lose my privilege of working from home?"
"No. Gwen you are my most successful commissioning editor ever. We've had more good strikes with you than anyone else and you have never missed with a bookstore certainty. I'm giving you an increase of three grand in salary because you deserve it."
"Thanks Guy. You have been a great guy to me."
Guy laughed and said, "To tell you the truth I thought you would have dumped an older guy like me years ago. You sound more confident and I'll watch for the new look Gwen in the morning if it's that apparent."
"It's happening for me Guy and yes the makeover is very apparent. This babe is good and Scott has taken a real interest in her. I repeat she does not appear to be gay."
"Bring her in tomorrow and let her see what you do on your weekly appearance at your workplace. Does she know anything about literature?"
"Good. You best call Claire and order lunch for this woman oh and yourself. Just say to Claire you won't be lunching with me in future. She'll know what that means so will provide me a solo lunch."
Gwen felt confused rather than free and didn't understand the reaction. She'd thought the guilt would have lifted. She went and found Fi.
"Would you like to come into the city tomorrow and observe what I do on my Fridays in the office and to lunch with senior staff?"
"Yes, I'd like that very much. Are you okay? You look strained."
"Well I shouldn't be. The boss has increased my salary so I'm increasing yours by thirty bucks a week. You are being so influential on me Fi."
"Oh thank you. That is very generous. Did you tell him about me and he suggested you bring me in?"
"Well I mentioned you. I made not mention of your age or looks or that you are a writer in waiting. I just said you are impacting on me."
Fi giggled and said, "I suppose he asked if I were gay?"
"No," Gwen lied. Although Fi just smiled Gwen was left with the impression Fi knew that was a lie. As for Guy and her banging on Fridays, no way would she ever mention that!
"Ohmigod," Fi said as they entered the elevator. "Three floors... how many people work for the company?"
"One hundred and eight as far as I know. Our printing is done outside on contract."
"So were are you in the hierarchy?"
"Oh up there."
"Well fifth in the pecking order but that's arbitrary. It's of no consequence. Because I don't work in the office except Fridays I have not executive responsibility for training and management of personnel. Understand what I mean? It's a figurehead status."
"I see. How many commissioning editors are there?"
"And who is considered to be the most effective one?"
Gwen glared and told Fi to stop that nonsense. The roles were not competitive.
The first gathering was a progress meeting and after everyone have finished talking to Gwen about how changed and how lovely she looked, Gwen introduced Fi to everyone describing her as an observer. Guy was called when everyone was ready. He strode in a stopped in shock, saying, "My god, are you really Gwen's housekeeper?"
A buzz flashed around the room.
"Yes, I'm American, a university drop-out and my parents gave me money to go off to find myself. Gwen had a position of housekeeper posted with an agency that I found on the Internet and I applied. I was the only applicant without paid housekeeping experience so Gwen hired me, saying she'd train me to housekeep the way she wanted it done. It is very nice to meet you Mr Fennell. You appear to run a very impressive outfit."
"Thank you miss."
Guy then focused on Gwen and almost boggled. "You're looking great Gwen. I like the changes. I'd like you both on standby as possible front cover models."
"Oh Guy, how flattering you are. If Fi consents I want her used only to promote the new book of one of our top ten authors."
"Very well. You heard that Clyde. Now let's get on with the meeting. Take that spare seat at the table Fi."
The head of production used a computer linked to a projector to chart the progress of each fiction and non-fiction publication already in the system and then the five commissioning editor reported on their work, following by editors assessing proposals from authors. By then it was after midday and lunch was served.
Fi was invited to sit by the executive editor who was surprised that Fi had completed two years studying English lit.
"So that's why you are here, you have an interest."
"Yes but part of my interest is to get a deeper understanding of what Gwen does. She's explained what she does at home and there was nothing new for me there but the complexity of this progress reporting interests me greatly. I had not been privy to this side of publishing until today."
"Yes it has to be thorough otherwise we would be in a mess with production schedules. Are you aware Gwen is our jewel?"
"No because she won't talk about it. Tell me Cynthia."
"Your employer is one of the best in the business. She has never missed a deadline and has a great sense of what will sell and what will bomb out. Her consistency in this is amazing and that makes Gwen our number one commissioning editor. International publishers based in Australia have attempted to headhunt her but she rejects such advances outright. Guy's wife had read Gwen's novels so when she applied for a job he read her most successful one and told me to hire her. He saw something just by reading her and reading her CV and simply said, "This woman needs a break and may well surprise us. If she doesn't perform then find a reason to fire her after three months. Within three weeks I could see I had a rising star. Gwen's loyalty to us is unshakable."
The production and distribution managers left, leaving the afternoon session on assessment to be debated by the editorial and sales managers.
"Please contribute Fi," Guy instructed but she sat quietly until a proposal was screened, an assistant from PR reading out the under-scored lines.
In a flash Gwen asked, "Why haven't I seen this proposal?"
"It only arrived yesterday."
Guy asked, "Does this interest anyone else?"
There was silence so Fi spoke. "Probably it will interest everyone in Australia with more than a half a brain, especially academics, school teachers and armchair critics."
Guy smiled encouraging. "A fresh viewpoint is always welcomed here Fi. Please continue."
"The title says it all, 'Dumbing Down Australia TV'. This author is an academic in an area where she had expertise in media sampling, twenty-three years of it we have learned. America reviewed its education on the strength of a woman writing a research publication on 100 years of dumbing down national education."
Guy said he remembered that controversy.
"If your TV programming is similar to ours in America we all know dumbing down is happening and yet simply dismiss it as TV has gone to crap. No one takes responsibility for it and the TV people say it's related to the needs of advertisers as well as sampling TV viewers' preferences. Ohmigod, so we set national standards according to where boneheaded advertisers wish to spend their advertising dollars. There is no need for me to go on. You all know TV has collapsed into the domain of dummies, or more precisely the lowest end of intellectualism. Even the news on many channels is now of the caliber of entertainment/news. Just hope like hell this author hasn't yet offered her proposal to any other publisher who has yelled, "Deal". I might be only twenty and hail from Texas but I have a brain and see where this lobotomy of public TV is taking us. That's me finished."
"Thank you Fi," Guy said. "Cynthia?"
"I too have a gut feeling. Assess the proposal please Gwen. Three draft chapters have been enclosed. I want the decision by 4:30. If we have a potential hot-seller I want to have that author signed up ASP, very ASP."
At that point Gwen left the meeting, taking Dr Judith Moran's proposal with her.
Guy looked at Cynthia and they both grinned. The meeting continued.
Walking to catch the train home Gwen told Fi Dr Moran would be signing a faxed contract and faxing it back by the day's end. "The media will seize upon this one when we release the review copies, particularly the print media that likes to slam TV for anti-social behavior. This book is so damning it will be very controversial and while the debate rages we'll sell the book by the container loads. Did you enjoy yourself today? Oh before I forget, you comment was very learned."
"Thank you. Yes I found it interesting in between the tedious parts."
Arriving at Summer Hill station that was within walking distance from Gwen's home in Moonbie St, Fi said, "Let's go for a drink."
"Er if you don't mind I usually drink at home. I'm rather unkempt... oh, my make-over. This really takes some getting use to. The girls at work couldn't believe I could change so radically but when I pointed to you they nodded and said sympathetically they understood."
"Oh how condescending of them. Are you coming or do I drop into the bar alone?"
"Oh I can't allow you to go in alone. You are a stranger in a community and some really rough types are about. I'll have to come with you."
The barmaid looked at Gwen, nodded and then her eyes lit and she said, "Hi Fi. How's Pluto?"
"Fine thanks Nell. This is Pluto's owner Gwen Mace."
"Oh hi Gwen. This is a first for both of you so first drink on the house. I often see Fi in or near the supermarket or in Moonbie when I'm on my running circuit. Fi said she was housekeeper for a lovely woman, is that you?"
"It has to be," Gwen laughed.
Two guys came in and said hi to Fi. One looked familiar and Gwen recognized her pharmacist.
"Oh hello Mr Noble."
The pharmacist smiled and said, "Hello Mrs Mace."
"Oh please call me Gwen."
"It's Gwen for me only if you call me Gerald," he smiled. "You look... er racy."
Gwen blushed and said thank you.
Fi said, "Gwen I'd like you to meet Charlie Broome who runs Sun Hill Village Security. I met him through Pluto."
Charlie turned to look at Gwen and he hesitated... "Gwen, Gwen McMasters... er at least you were?"
"Ohmigod, Charlie boy! Fi we went through Darlington Public School in Chippendale together and lost touch when we went on to different high schools because my parents shifted out Parramatta way."
After hugging Charlie and Gwen chatted so Fi swapped small talk with Gerald until the other two had caught up their pasts.
After an hour Fi said they had to go. "Would you guys care to have dinner with us?"
Gwen appeared shocked at Fi's boldness and Gerald said his wife and the two kids still living at home would expect him home.
"What about you Charlie?"
"Well yeah Fi, I'm living alone but shouldn't the invitation come from Gwen?"
"Fi is running my house Charlie. She is free to invite you."
Gerald left and the other three walked the short distance to Gwen's home, Charlie leaving his vehicle in the supermarket car park.
Gwen whispered, "Fi what the hell are you attempting to do?"
"I smell romance."
At that Gwen was struck speechless. Was it happening? For sometime she'd had half a feeling Fi would pull something like this.
Fi said, "Take our arms Charlie."
"Gawd this feels good. I think I kissed you Gwen on the first week we began school. I started a day earlier than you."
"A day later."
Fi said, "What was the kiss like Gwen?"
"I can't remember being kissed."
Charlie had turned and was looking at Gwen.
"She's still very kissable Charlie."
Gwen thought could have strangled the loudmouth American. Fortunately Charlie just laughed.
Fi arrived with their drinks and turned on soft music and said she would be away working on the dinner. She closed the door to the kitchen.
Oh god, thought Gwen.
Fi called Scott and asked him what he was doing.
"I have a hand on my dick thinking of you."
Fi screamed in laughter.
"Have you been drinking?"
"Yes Scott, just a couple. Look your mom might like some company. We've brought an old childhood pal home from the bar but your mom appears embarrassed. You being here could help."
"Okay I'm already showered so will be on my way. Cook something decent."
Fi chose to do meatballs and when that dish was in the oven made apple pie and dashed out and brought cream. When she arrived back home Gwen arrived in the kitchen in quite a state. "You left me alone with him. I'd heard some years ago he was a bit of a ladies' man."
"Well isn't that a good use of a man?"
Gwen staggered away muttering Fi was setting her up.
"You appeared embarrassed so I've asked Scott around. Here he is now."
"Oh your wonderful girl," Gwen said darting back to hug and kiss her housekeeper before being pushed back to entertain her guest.
Scott placed two bottles of red on the bench and then kissed Fi hungrily.
He grinned and said he'd purchased two bottles of quality wine because his mom only bought crap and had them charged to Gwen's account.
Scott went into the family room and he and Charlie looked at one another in surprise.
"Hi Scott, fancy seeing you here. Do you know Gwen?"
"Sort of," Scott grinned.
Gwen said sheepishly, "I'm a divorcee and Scott Mace is my son. My younger child Blanche is in Melbourne studying."
"Well, well. I know Scott through evening gym; he's one of the trainers that work on a bunch of us two nights a week and Scott and I cycle together, usually on Sunday mornings. He occasionally sits at my switchboard and scans the monitors on the wall at evenings if the duty operator fails to show because of sickness or whatever."
Gwen became quite excited over those connections and at one stage during the evening after more wines ruffled Charlie's hair when he denied a joke he'd just related was filthy.
After dinner was over and conversation was dying Fi said brightly, "You other two go into the lounge. Scott and I will clear away and after doing the dishes I'll bring you coffee."
"Can we be trusted to be left alone," Gwen giggled, leaving Scott looking at his mother most concerned. Fi had to pull him away.
He said to Fi fiercely, "Charlie has a bit of a reputation with the ladies"
"Oh really. And you mom has never had callers -- males, late at night carrying a box of chocolates and a couple of bottles of sparkling wine?"
"Who told you that?" Scott demanded defensively.
"Oh crap," he groaned.
Fi put her arms around him, locking him into a major kiss and wriggled a breast free. She pulled up her top and invited, "Go Scott -- my bared breast awaits you."
Fi allowed Scott to briefly grope with it and tongue her and then said, "Oh I forgot, do you still have that girlfriend?"
She pulled away and pulled down her top and said, "Come on pal. You clear the table and I'll load the dishwasher."
"Aw Fi, don't be so cruel. Feel my dick."
"Oh is it big enough to feel? No worries mate. You know I set the ground rules."
"Aw Fi, fair go."
"Run along darling. Fetch me things off the table."
When they had finished Fi took coffee into Gwen and Charlie and when she returned to the kitchen found a note: 'Thanks for being lovely all evening and especially for our moments of intimacy. I accept your ground rules. I'm off home to put my heroine through an inexplicable period of being a total bitch because her hormones were out of balance because of the phase of the moon.'
Fi laughed, not at all angry with Scott because she knew men took it hard when they thought they were on to something only to be pushed away. She'd acted deliberately, wanted him to decide what of the two women he wanted -- his girlfriend or her.
Leaving the lights on she went to bed.
She was reading when Gwen came in to the bedroom yawning and looking rather flushed.
"Gosh talk about Mr Smooth. Charlie had both breasts out before I had time to protest."
"Oooh," Fi giggled.
"We are going on a proper date on Saturday. God, I'm so excited."
"Scott told me he has other women."
Gwen sighed. "I had wondered about that. Still I need someone to fuck me now that I've given up Guy. Oh god, what was I saying?"
Fi took in that astounding comment and faked it. "Pardon me Gwen, I failed to catch what you said. I was thinking about Scott saying he was off to work on his book."
Fi held Gwen's gaze and Gwen was the first to blink and look away. "You really are motivating that boy. Actually I've thought two or three times during the past three days perhaps I should try to get back into writing."
"Well keep thinking. Don't jump in too early. I should think when your typing fingers begin twitching then it will be time to sit in front of your laptop and pound out, 'A novel by Gwendolyn Mace'. Don't be cross with me but I was dusting in your office cupboard two days ago and found copies of your books. This is your first published novel, 'Kylie's Rotten Husband'. I've almost wet myself at times, sharing your grief, although I know this would only be loosely based on what happened to you."
Gwen covered her surprise with a smile. "I don't mind. If you hadn't found my cache you could have borrowed the books from the library. I image you already know the conclusion without having read it, being such a smart girl?"
"Something like, 'My marriage was beyond saving by the time it collapsed. But I don't think all men are jerks and I suspect I shall marry again. But first I have to stop thinking no man will want me, a divorcee'."
"You are damn good. That's very much like the ending you'll read. I guess I'm predictable. I did use that exact phrase, 'I suspect I shall marry again'. I edited out in the final draft this final sentence, 'But will any man bother with me now I have a failed marriage behind me?' so you came very close."
"You must have been praised for such a solid first novel with plenty of high-pitched emotional passages to keep reader interest?"
"I was indeed. The amazing thing to me, having a very creative mind, was I failed to keep going. I guess things were changing in my life at the time and that distracted me. Well good night darling and thanks for being the focal point that reunited Charlie and me. Had it been left to us we would have passed in the street like strangers."
* * *
Scott arrived next for lunch and kissed both women, casually and about the same length of time.
A guy arrived in a pickup and Scott introduced him as Jerry. They were best friends and had met at high school and ended up doing most things together. Fi would learn later although Scott was in an academic stream Jerry struggled with school work. But he received after-school coaching and ended up flying through his post-school studies to become a motor mechanic.