tagNovels and NovellasThe Touch Ch. 13

The Touch Ch. 13


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 13: Concerts and Gigs

The following week was shaping up to be a busy one for me. Emma had managed to completely clear the old stock room where Debbie and I had enjoyed our spontaneous shag and on Monday, Maggie and I put on old overalls and gave the room a coat of emulsion, painted the woodwork and brought an old carpet down from the house which could be fitted once the paint was dry. This was to be the new general office and would be Emma's domain as soon as the additional office furniture arrived and British Telecom had installed the required telephone and fax extensions. I was pleased that I would soon be getting my own desk back and there would only be Maggie and I in the old office again.

We were both very impressed with the way that Emma had taken to her new duties but what really caught us by surprise was when she announced that morning that she had signed herself up at college for short course evening classes in book keeping and office management. She had made the decision on her own without being pushed, although I had been thinking about organising some training for her. Maggie and I talked about it over lunch and she was in favour of trying to move Emma's courses so that she could do them on day release. I was not so keen on that idea; the whole college thing had been Emma's initiative and I wanted her to feel that this was something she had done for herself. In the end we compromised, it was the last year she would not have to pay tuition fees but we would underwrite her expenses and would look at giving her a salary rise once she qualified.

To our surprise BT turned up on time in the afternoon, and replaced the office telephone lines and fitted new extensions in the upstairs rooms and the shop, replacing the old fixed cables with new plug in sockets. All the handsets were changed for up to date push button dialling units and a new, much louder, bell extension was fitted to the outside of the building which could be heard from any part of the site.

Tuesday I had promised to go out and assess the garden maintenance job that had come in on Thursday. The appointment was not until 2 pm and so I suggested to Emma that she should come with me and we could call into the commercial stationers in Salisbury and pick up some new equipment for the office.

I wanted to make a good impression with Mrs. Harvey and so had put on a stone washed denim shirt and a new pair of brown corduroy jeans, with brown brogue walking boots and my Barbour waxed jacket.

"God, Jamie," Emma laughed when she joined me in the yard. "You look like you've just stepped out of the Young Farmer's Club, really cool!" She looked good herself. She was wearing her usual black; skin tight black leggings, beneath an extra short black mini skirt and a thick black polo neck pullover. Her hair was pulled back into a long pony tail that hung temptingly down her back.

We left about mid-day in the Land Rover and spend about an hour browsing in the office equipment show room. Maggie had already spoken to Emma about requirements and had left the detailed decisions about what to purchase to her. My sister was like a kid in a toy shop and came away wreathed in smiles with a box of small items and a new state of the art Panasonic word processor, with separate printer and a large box of floppy discs. I just got to sign the account and carry the parcels.

Neither of us had eaten that lunchtime so as Tuesday is market day in Salisbury Emma walked over to the market and bought sausage rolls and Cokes, whilst I took the heavier boxes back to the car. It was still very mild and sunny so we sat on a wall by the car park and ate our snacks and talked. Emma seemed really content, she was thrilled with her new job and to my relief seemed to have dropped the gang of no-hopers that she had been hanging out with and was spending more time with a couple of older friends from her school days and the twins. She had stuck rigidly to her promise and this week was due to pay me the final instalment of the debt relating to Mum's telephone bill.

As we walked over to the Land Rover, I told her about Maggie's suggestion that we paid her study expenses and I added that whilst she was doing evening classes I would either collect her after class myself or arrange for her to get a lift home so that she would not have to cycle in the dark. We got to the car and I handed her the keys.

"I'll navigate and you can drive," I said, and fished a couple of L plates out of my bag and stuck them to the front and rear mudguards. She had been getting on well with her driving lessons and Mum had taken her out in her car for a couple of hours at weekends and some evenings, so I was quite happy for her to have some practice in the Land Rover. She soon got the hang of the heavy vehicle and it was not a great distance to the Old Blandford Road.

The Cedars Retirement Home was a large rambling, Edwardian house, to which had been added a couple of modern ground floor extensions and a large conservatory at the back in which I could see several elderly men and women watching television. The grounds consisted of quite wide expanses of fairly level lawns, criss-crossed with narrow shingle paths and the gardens were surrounded by high laurel hedges, which had obviously not been trimmed for a couple of years. The grounds contained several of the most magnificent cedar trees that I had seen in the county. There were a lot of border flower beds, an extensive rockery maze garden and a wide paved terrace by the house with an absolute multitude of very old and magnificent pots and containers, some of which had been replanted with a few early bulbs and some still had last summers dead foliage hanging over the edges.

Jane Harvey was a very nice woman in her late fifties, tall and thin, with grey hair and was dressed in a woollen twin set suit of dark grey which looked a bit dated but was of good quality. I introduced Emma as our office manager, and saw her beam with pride, they seemed hit it off immediately and I left them talking on the terrace whilst I took a walk around the grounds, took a few photographs and re-assessed the provisional estimate that Maggie and I had guessed at. There was a lot more work to do than I had expected and the gardens would need regular maintenance if they were to be well kept all year round. The good news was that there was a well equipped tool shed with all the usual hand tools; an almost new ride-on lawn mower and the most enormous hand roller I had ever seen away from a cricket club. More importantly there was a twin outside tap and several long hoses and sprinkler units which appeared in good order.

Mrs. Harvey asked if we would like teas or coffees and whilst we were waiting took Emma for a tour around the house whilst I stood down in the reception hall and chatted to an attractive girl in a white nurse's outfit who was behind the desk. I discovered very quickly that her name was Janet; she was a trainee carer, eighteen years old and had worked at the home for a year. She lived on the premises and did not have a regular boyfriend. She was petite and blonde with sparking blue eyes a cheeky grin and a slight North Country accent. She looked very tempting in her uniform which hugged her slight figure so that I could see the outline of the bra and panties beneath it. Mrs. Harvey and Emma returned with another, older carer, carrying a tray with cups of tea and coffee and a plate of biscuits.

"If we get the job I will be coming over here quite often.... Perhaps we could go out sometime? I suggested quietly to Janet.

She smiled saucily, "OK," she replied, "I'll think about it." Then nodded at Emma, "That your girlfriend then?" she asked.

"No, my sister," I informed her. She turned back to some forms she had on the desk as Mrs. Harvey approached.

We sat and had our drinks and I gave Mrs. Harvey my estimate of costs; for putting the gardens in order over the next couple of months, supplying plants and bulbs and re- planting the flower beds. Then, added to that the contract price for weekly maintenance. I thought that I had over estimated the charges and saw Emma's eyes go wide, and quite expected to have to haggle a bit over the price. She thought for a few seconds and then accepted the deal without any reservations. We got up and shook hands and walked out to the car, I waved to Janet as we passed but she didn't look up. As we got into the Land Rover I glanced over and caught her watching us from a window. She was pretty and cute and I would now probably be calling in to The Cedars every few days, I sensed that she was interested; I just needed to work on her a bit.

When we got back to the garden centre we found that the office suppliers had not only delivered the items that Emma had ordered a few hours previously, but also the new desk, chairs and other furniture for her office. Maggie got Steve in to help lay the carpet and the two of us managed to drag the two, four drawer steel filing cabinets into their new home before he went back to work helping Jack in the green houses.

We left Emma to unpack her new toys and set up her Word Processor then went back to our own office. Maggie flopped down at her desk and I sat on the corner and told her about the contract at The Cedars. She was very happy with the deal, contract gardening and design work could keep us going at the slower times of the year and it was good that we were getting new work coming in. Maggie had been out to see another large garden project during the autumn and had submitted her designs but that was not due to start until the early summer. We certainly now had enough outside work to keep Colin Llewellyn busy when he started next month and decided that we would pair him up with one of the students, probably Kitty and that I would fill in or help out where needed.

I went over and dug into my desk draw and came up with two slips of paper which I held up.

"What are they?" Maggie asked.

"They are tickets to the concert at the Cathedral tonight," I said, "A selection of Handel and Purcell choral works by The Sixteen Choir with Harry Christophers and Lynn Dawson." It was one of their rare live performances and I had bought the expensive, tickets on a whim when they first went on sale before Christmas.

"Wow!" she exclaimed, "Who are you lavishing those on? Who ever it is tell her that I'm jealous." She laughed.

"Well.... I had thought of asking Madonna," I joked, "but on second thought I would very much prefer it if you would come with me..... if you don't mind being seen out with your nephew, that is?" It had been my intention to ask Maggie from the time I had bought the tickets but had not had the courage to do the deed. I felt warm and knew that I was blushing but Maggie did not seem to notice.

"Madonna's loss is my gain," she chuckled, "I'd love to come." She took the tickets and looked at them. "Performance starts at eight, why don't I pick you up from home at seven-thirty?" She added then passed the tickets back to me.

I let everybody go home on time and was locked up sharp at six o'clock and gunned the Vespa to get home in the shortest time possible. I was showered, shaved and changed into my suit and waiting for Maggie well before half past seven. Mum came into the hall and fussed about, flicking at my jacket with the clothes brush and straightening my tie.

"You don't mind that I invited Maggie, do you?" I asked, I knew that Mum wasn't that keen on choral music but Maggie and I were both serious devotees. Mum's musical tastes over lapped with mine and Maggie's as she too adored trad jazz and chamber music and shared Maggie's love of the ballet.

"Of course I don't mind," she replied, "but you must realise that choosing one twin over the other has its penalties.... I shall expect you to take me out somewhere really nice, I want to be wined and dined and then dance the night away!"

"OK, it's a deal!" I said. I heard Maggie's Range Rover pull into the drive.

Suddenly Emma pushed past us and thundered up the stairs, "You never, take ME out anywhere!" she snapped over her shoulder as she banged her bedroom door. Mum and I looked at each other and suppressed a giggle.

Mum walked out to the car with me. I climbed into the passenger seat and she opened the driver door so that she and Maggie could hug.

"I'm not sure that I like you dating my lovely son," I heard her say, I knew that she was joking but the thought that I was actually going out on a date with Maggie, no matter how innocent Mum and Maggie saw it, gave me a thrill that started as a lump in my throat and ended in my groin.

Arriving early meant that we were able to get parked in Chorister's Square and only had to walk across the road to the cathedral grounds. There were quite a few people milling about outside the doors, most of the men were wearing suits but several were wearing dinner jackets and all the women were in cocktail or evening dresses. Maggie looked absolutely stunning. She was wearing a very plain black satin calf length dress which clung tightly to her figure and had a single wide strap tied with a bow over the right shoulder, leaving the left shoulder completely bare, the outfit finished off with sheer black tights and plain black patent court shoes. The evening was warm, almost like spring, and I carried her embroidered black bolero jacket over my arm.

The concert was absolutely extraordinary and the 1st Soprano, Lynn Dawson was superb. Refreshments were available during the interval in the new coffee bar in the refectory behind the south transept, and I got us each a glass of hock and managed to discreetly purchase the new Sixteen Choir CD which I slipped into my pocket.

We mingled with the other patrons and exchanged greetings with several people that were known to either Maggie or me, a couple of younger guys that I knew from college, one of my old teachers, Carl Olsen and his wife and Georgia Craven, who was escorted by a good looking grey haired man in a very expensive looking white dinner jacket. She embraced Maggie and introduced her companion as a client from Australia.

"Good evening, Mrs. Craven," I said smiling, when she turned to me.

"It is Ms. Craven," she told me firmly, "It is my maiden name and I have always used it professionally ...." She actually smiled at me, "It will be simpler if you just call me Georgia," she added. I felt that I had broken through some sort of barrier but I wasn't sure what.

A bell chimed quietly somewhere and everybody started to move back to their seats. "I did not like him, much ..... Too conceited!" Maggie leaned close and whispered as we left Georgia and her companion. It had turned chilly and I draped Maggie's jacket protectively over her bare shoulders.

I didn't like him at all! The lustful way he looked at Maggie reminded me that although I was her escort for the evening she was still my aunt, that she was twenty years older than me, and despite my secret fantasies, nothing could ever happen between us. I just hated the thought that she might want to start a relationship with another man now that 'Ben the Bastard' was gone.

I was not a long concert and by the time we had spoken to various acquaintances as we left it was still only just after ten so as neither of us had had much to eat we walked over to the 'New Inn and Old House Restaurant' in New Street, who served a late supper when there was a function at the cathedral. We both ordered the liver and onion hotpot with creamed potatoes, and glasses of the house red wine, sat at a small corner table and talked about the concert, music and anything except work, there seemed to be an unspoken agreement that this was a purely social occasion. When our dishes had been cleared by the waitress, I dipped into my pocket and slipped the CD I had purchased across the table.

"It's a thank you for coming with me present!" I told her.

She reached for her handbag and passed an identical copy of the CD across to me. "It's a thank you for taking me present!" We both laughed and she produced a pen and opened the cellophane on both discs, and wrote on the paper insert of mine and passed the pen and the other CD to me. Mine read, 'Jamie. Thanks for a super evening. Love Maggie'. I took a deep breath and then quickly inscribed hers with 'To Maggie. My best date, ever. Love from Jamie".

We skipped coffees and Maggie drove me home. Mum came to the door as she heard the car on the gravel drive and insisted that Maggie come in for coffee. Emma seemed to have gotten over her earlier spat and we all sat and talked for thirty minutes or so about family things until Maggie said that she really needed to go. I walked her out to her car and she gave me a tight hug. My hand rested on her bare back, her body was pressed against mine and my face was lost in the soft cloud of her fragrant hair. It only lasted a few seconds and then she closed the door, started the engine and was gone.

I said goodnight to Mum and Emma and went up to my room. I put my new disc into the Walkman that Maggie had given me at Christmas and laid on my bed lost in the music and thoughts of how fabulous Maggie had looked, and how soft the bare skin of her back had felt against my palm. I also made a resolution that I would go into town before the summer concert and prom season started and buy myself a decent dinner jacket and accessories.

Emma had sold a big fifteen foot shed on Saturday and so Wednesday morning Steve and I loaded the flat pack units and some extra timbers and the tools onto the lorry and drove out to the client's home in Balmoral Road to deliver and erect it. It was a big heavy shed, but for once we found that the customer had actually prepared the site and it made the job a lot easier. Steve was turning out to be a good all rounder he knew a bit about, carpentry, building, electrics and all sorts, I liked him and we got on well together as a team. We broke for lunch and walked down to the local pub and had a pint and then went back and sat and ate our sandwiches in the garden. We were finished with the job by about two o'clock and the customer was happy and so I accepted his cheque and we drove back to the garden centre.

As we crossed the yard one of the customers, browsing the selection of pots and containers, called out, "Hey! Steve is that you?" We turned around and I saw a smartly dressed man about thirty who walked up and started to pump Steve's hand vigorously. By his haircut and carriage I guessed he was a serviceman. Then the woman with him stepped up and gave Steve a hug, she looked over his shoulder straight into my eyes. It was Laurie, the red headed, Scottish woman from the night at the Chinese restaurant before Christmas. She looked startled, frightened and pleading all at the same time.

Then Steve was introducing me, "This is Jocko McLean, he was my sergeant in the army, and this is his wife Laurie." I shook hands with Jocko and nodded to Laurie as though we had never met.

I found myself having to spend five minutes with them answering questions about the various types of container, until they picked the one that they wanted and Steve picked it and went with Jocko to put it in their car. I walked over to the shop with Laurie so that she could pay. "Thank you for not saying anything!" she said quietly, "We will probably never see each other again, but I am glad that I know your name now!" She didn't try to explain or make excuses for having casual sex with me that night as most women seem to need to do, I was glad that I had seen her again and that she was OK.

It was one of those odd quirks of co-incidence, last month I had been on a date with Suey and had met and shared a brief sexual encounter with Laurie, and that night after seeing Laurie again I had another date with Suey. How strange was that I thought?

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