tagNovels and NovellasThe Touch Ch. 28

The Touch Ch. 28


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.

Pt. 28 Love in the Afternoon

Tuesday was dull and overcast, the weather forecast predicted heavy rain for the next few days and as the job for Caroline Brookes was the most urgent of the large projects in hand, we decided to throw everybody at it for a day to get as much of the basic work completed as we could.

There were six of us on site by nine o'clock and by the time that it started to rain in the late afternoon we were well along with the seriously heavy work. Steve and Dennis had almost finished the timber decking leading from the house, and only needed to erect the hand railing and steps for that part of the project to be completed. I had paired up with Kitty to clear and lay the sand bed for the paved barbeque patio and the space where the small summer house would be erected, whilst Maggie and Colin waded into the backbreaking task of levelling the central part of the garden ready to receive the grass turf which I had ordered for delivery to the site on Friday.

The site was starting to transform from a patch of weed and rubble into the beginnings of a garden. I was really pleased and was sure that Caroline would be impressed when she next came down to Salisbury. At the day's end we were all tired but satisfied with a seriously good days labour and felt ourselves well deserving of the hour we all spent in the pub on the way back to the garden centre.

The weather on Wednesday and Thursday turned out to be as forecast with high winds and torrential rain and so Maggie, Emma and I spent a couple of days in the office catching up on paperwork and going over the company accounts prior to visiting Georgia Craven the next week to discuss my investment into the business.

Regardless of her youth and short experience Emma had totally excelled as the office manager, she was due to complete her night school course in office management in May and was taking seriously being made a non-executive director of the company. She and her cousins, Lauren and Lucinda, would not have voting shares yet but Maggie, Gwen and I had decided from the start that Emma would be informally included at director's meetings as she was already working inside the business and had made herself an essential part of the management team during the past six months and we valued her input.

As it was now nearly May, Gwen and I had been pushing her once again to decide if she wanted to apply for a place at university, she already had the grades and her job would be there for her for as long as it took, but she had finally come up was a solution which she preferred, Gwen found satisfactory and importantly, it was something that she really wanted to do.

The course that she was just completing gave her the basic entry status required to apply for membership to the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants, it would mean hard work for four years and fourteen examinations. Much of it was home study, but her practical applications could be performed within her present job at the garden centre and the necessary classroom lectures were available on day release at either Southampton or Reading. At the end of her studies she would have a accountancy qualification even surpassing a professional degree. We were a family business and she was part of it, so there was no question that the garden centre would sponsor her study fees, besides Uncle Arthur was almost eighty and having a qualified accountant to take over as company secretary when he retired would be an added bonus.

Despite the foul weather the garden centre was very busy, I think that many customers were attracted to us by being able to shop in the dry, under the new arboretum and the covered walkways and with nearly all the staff on site there was no shortage of hands to take their purchases out to their cars for them. I had purchased a dozen or so large golfing umbrellas which had been printed with the company logo and were available for the use of customers who wanted to browse the outside areas.

The restaurant had more than lived up to our expectations and was usually packed to capacity most lunch-times and had become a popular meeting place for groups of older women in particular and retired couples. Maggie was so pleased with the project that after discussing it with Grace and I had applied to the local authority for a restaurant licence to allow us to sell a limited selection of wines and bottled beers, and would be able to use the restaurant for private functions.

Thursday morning I was crossing the arboretum, glanced over at the customer car park and spotted Becca's bright orange VW Beetle pulling in. It was pouring with rain and so I grabbed one of the big umbrellas and ran out to the car just as she was getting out.

We briefly touched finger tips as an acknowledgment of shared affection. "I've brought the framed washes for Ms. Brookes," she explained, reaching over to the rear seat for a brown paper parcel. She handed it to me and started to get back into the car but I quickly grabbed her elbow.

"Don't run off, come over to the office and meet Maggie, my aunt... then I will buy you a cup of coffee in our new restaurant..... Have you seen it yet?"

Maggie joined us for coffees in the restaurant; she and Becca hit it off immediately but then I couldn't imagine anybody not liking Becca, and insisted on giving her the guided tour of the garden centre, finally ending up in the office. I had unpacked the coloured drawings that she had brought so that Maggie could see her work and she handed me the film negatives of the photographs she had taken so that I could get prints made up for our portfolio files.

"I think the arrangement you have with Jamie is a really good idea, Rebecca," Maggie enthused. "Just make sure that he pays you for any work that you do for him," she added laughing, "and, if you ever need somewhere to work you can come and use the drawing office here anytime that you want to."

I walked her back to the car with the umbrella, we hugged and I promised that I would call her soon.

It was late on Thursday afternoon when the telephone on my desk rang. Maggie had left for the day and Emma was cashing up the tills in the shops and restaurant and so the outside line had been switched through to me. I recognised the soft, husky voice immediately, it was Gill Watford.

"Hello Gill..." I paused for a second just to gather my thoughts; she could only be calling me for one of two reasons; either to tell me that she had changed her mind about our arrangement, or that we needed to get together.

"Hello Jamie dear," She obviously was not sure about my current feelings either, I could sense her taking a deep breath and then she continued, "I know that this is very short notice, but .... If you still feel that you want to ..... "

I wasn't going to let her flounder, "Yes, I do ...as long as you do as well. Is it time?" She had promised to call me when she was sure of her 'Hot Spot', and I had known that it would be at short notice as there was only a few days window during her ovulation period.

"Oh dear," she sighed, "This was so much easier when we were face to face, now it just seems so cold and clinical."

"It's OK ... really it is." I assured her, "When do you want us to meet?" There was nothing much that I had to do personally, we had already agreed a place, a new motel off the motorway near Chippenham, where neither of us was likely to be recognised or seen by anybody we knew; Gill would make the booking, I just had to turn up.

"We need to get together between Friday and Monday to have the best chances of success," she told me, then added very quickly, "If you can't make it, or you have changed your mind... I will understand...."

I hadn't changed my mind at all. In fact my time with Cora on Monday had somehow given me an even more sympathetic attitude to Gill's request. Besides, thinking about this beautiful woman having sex with me and wanting me to intentionally get her pregnant, was beginning to sound more and more erotic.

"Sunday, how about Sunday?" I suggested.

"Yes, that will be good," she confirmed, "Shall we meet in the coffee shop at the motel, it is a Little Chef, I think .... Say about two-thirty?"

I agreed and we said our goodbyes and I let her hang up before putting the receiver down, sitting back and lighting a cigarette. Sunday was a good day for me, I wasn't intending to work, Emma would be out riding and Gwen would be on duty at the hospital. I didn't particularly care for the sneaking about aspect of this arrangement but in truth it wasn't something that could be discussed with anybody and discretion was important to Gill and that was what mattered.

The rain had stopped by the time that Emma came back into the office about four-thirty and the wind had cleared the sky; I figured that it should stay light until about eight o'clock and so I decided to work a few hours at Caroline's house to catch-up on time lost. The VW pick-up was already loaded with the irregular stone slabs that I needed to pave the patio area and so I hooked up the small cement mixer and was about to leave when Dennis flagged me down as I started to pull away.

"Are you going out to the Brookes job?"

"Yes I thought I would put in a couple of hours or so before it gets dark, give us a head start on tomorrow."

"I'll get my car and follow you out," he offered, "We can get far more done with two of us."

As cost was no object Caroline had chosen to pave the barbeque patio with a crazy paving of mixed Cornish Slate and Donegal Quartzite which gave a really beautiful blend of browns and greys and a mixture of textures. The surface had already been levelled and a layer of sand put down which was now firm but wet and heavy from the last two days rain, ideal for our purpose. Laying a irregular slab paved area is a long and laborious task, the slabs need to be laid individually and matched to the one next to them leaving no more than a half inch of gap between but with an eye to keeping a decorative mix of shapes and colours. We had decided to lay the paving onto a two inch screeding of quick dry cement as the best method of securing the odd shaped flags, keeping the surface level and preventing subsidence later.

The area to be flagged was an asymmetrical shape of about nine square yards and by the time that it was dusk we had completed almost a quarter and so we finished off the last of the cement in the mixer, cleaned up and called it a day. I reckoned that with Steve and Dennis working on it for a day the job should be finished by the end of Friday and ready to be grouted. As neither of us had eaten and I owed Dennis a favour I suggested that we went back to the pub across from the garden centre for a pint and some supper.

Strictly speaking Dennis was not on the garden centre staff, he was a self employed jobbing builder and handyman but for the last couple of months had been working almost exclusively for us, lending his skills to the structural tasks such as laying patios, brick laying and erecting sheds and greenhouses. He came in most days, did whatever was asked, billed us for his time, and paid his own tax and NI. He was twenty-two and like Steve he was ex-army with a good range of skills and a strong work ethic, I got on with him well both at work and socially.

By the time that we arrived the pub had stopped serving food, but Kenny the landlord, knew us well and the pub picked up a lot of trade from the garden centre, so sat us in a corner of the lounge bar and rustled up huge plates of ham, eggs and chips, which we devoured with relish and washed down with a couple of pints of best bitter. We spent an enjoyable lad's night, just discussing rugby, films, the virtues of various beers and he entertained me with dubious humorous tales of his time in the army.

"Can I ask you something?" Dennis said after a while. I nodded for him to go on. "I've met that young blonde carer out at The Cedars a couple of times when I've been out there helping Colin....."

"Oh yes, Janet...."

"Yeah. I was chatting to the cook out there and he told me that you had dated her. Er, are you and Janet an item?"

"No, absolutely not," I laughed, "We have seen each other a couple of times but nothing serious, I'm not even sure if we really like each other."

"So it wouldn't be stepping on your toes if I asked her out?"

"Not at all.... Go for it ....Den. She is a nice girl but not really my type, and I'm not sure if she is that keen on me either."

As I drove home after we parted, I mused about the one go nowhere date that I had had with Janet and the comfort fuck we had shared after I picked her up the night her car broken down. I had told Dennis the truth, she was a nice girl but we were never going to hit it off, she deserved more than a guy who might hook up with her every few weeks for a shag, and if I kept seeing her she might come to expect more than I was prepared to deliver. I had never had a messy break-up with a girl friend and I didn't relish that thought, where Janet was concerned this might be an appropriate time to just drift away.

Friday was at least dry for most of the day. Dennis and I got to Caroline's early and by mid-day when Steve finished his deliveries and joined us had completed laying the slabs and the three of us made a concerted effort to finish off the patio, grouting between the slabs and setting the edging blocks. It started to drizzle about five o'clock and so we covered the paving with a tarpaulin to protect the moist grouting and decided to call it a day.

The rolls of turf had been delivered in the morning and we would be able to start laying the central island of lawn the next week once the shapes for the flower beds had been finalised with Caroline and marked out with whitewash.

After the lads had packed up our kit and left in the pick-up, I fussed about for a short time and then wrote a note for Caroline to say that I would call in on Saturday to discuss the work and bring her the framed watercolours from Becca, and pushed it through the letterbox.

Saturday it was pissing down with rain again which made outside work almost impossible and so I called Caroline about eleven o'clock with a view to driving over to talk through the next stages of work for her garden. Instead she suggested that she would come down to the garden centre to meet me. She arrived shortly before twelve, roaring into the car park in her Lotus Elan and I took an umbrella out to meet her and bring her into the cover of the arboretum. As usual she looked very fashionable and sexy in a beige coloured designer trouser suit over a black silk camisole, her make-up a work of art and her hair brushed until it shone like silk.

We spent about an hour strolling around the centre whilst she enthusiastically picked out a selection of plants and several expensive pots and planters, until I suggested that she join Maggie and I for lunch in the restaurant. Perhaps because she was really enthusiastic about her garden and pleased with our work so far, she was relaxed and friendly and seemed to get on well with Maggie and the three of us managed to get the final shapes for the flower beds onto the plans.

I was still very surprised however; when at the end of lunch as we sat chatting over coffees she suddenly asked, "What are you two doing this evening?"

Maggie looked at me and I shook my head, "I don't think that either of us is doing anything special," she replied.

"I have three tickets to the Haydn String Quartet recital at Salisbury Arts Centre, this evening... I was going to take my two elderly aunts but they have had to drop out at the last moment.... I was wondering if you would like to come instead, as my guests."

I had hardly taken it in when Maggie accepted enthusiastically for both of us, "How very kind of you Caroline ... we would both be delighted, wouldn't we Jamie?"

"Oh, absolutely," I agreed. In fact I knew that tickets for the concert had been sold out for weeks as classical music events there on a Saturday evening were so rare, both Maggie and I had attempted unsuccessfully to get seats. We agreed to meet her at the venue at seven-thirty that evening.

I fetched my umbrella and walked Caroline over to the area where we had the demonstration greenhouses and garden buildings on display. Fortunately the rain had eased off as it took her another hour to decide on the design of summer house that she wanted for her garden. In the end she settled on a top of the range eight foot, octagonal, timber and glass tradition design from an old established company called Walton's. We sat in the furnished demonstration model we had on site whilst I filled in the order form, I would telephone the order through to the manufacturer on Monday for delivery to her house later in the week. I walked her back to her fancy sports car and she gave me a quick peck on the cheek and roared away scattering gravel around her. I was very pleased with the way that Caroline's contract was progressing, she had paid the first tranche of her account dead on time, and although wanting to be very involved at every stage of the job, listened to the professional advice and accepted guidance where needed. A very satisfying client... with a terrific body... that had to be a bonus.

As the garden centre was open until six, I drove home as soon as we had closed up, showered and changed into my dinner jacket and then drove straight back to Maggie's house as we had decided to leave my car there and drive into town in her Range Rover. It had stopped raining and we could park at the market and walk around the corner to the Arts Centre in Bedwin Street.

Maggie looked absolutely fabulous as usual, she was wearing a very simple black, calf length dress with narrow shoulder straps and a gathered embroidered waistband decorated with black and silver sequins. Her make-up consisted of no more than a pale blue eye-shadow and a deep pink lip stick; her hair was drawn into a neat honey blonde pony tail and tied with one of her favourite bows of black sequined material matching her dress. She had casually draped a black silk stole around her shoulders.

The recital had drawn a quite considerable audience; the musicians were a relatively new ensemble of graduate students from the London School of Music who called themselves the Manheim String Ensemble and were quickly gaining a reputation of excellence. They were presenting the three string quartets op.64 by Joseph Haydn followed by Mozart's Salzburg quartets, an excellent and somewhat unusual programme.

It was Maggie who eventually spotted Caroline amongst the crowd filling the entrance to the hall and the bar and we manoeuvred our way to her side. She certainly stood out from the crowd in a figure hugging, dark blue Chinese printed silk, sheath cocktail dress with a colourful traditional blossom and bird design. The strapless dress seemed to be moulded to her sumptuous body; clinging tightly and emphasising her generous breasts, and rounded hips and thighs. Her blonde tresses cascaded around her face to bounce on her bare shoulders as she walked towards us.

She was her usual gushing self and greeted us warmly with hugs and kisses as though we were old friends and passed me the tickets as we moved into the auditorium to take our seats, just as the calling bell rang.

I kept glancing around as we walked to our seats in the coveted second row; I had convinced myself the Georgia Craven would be there. We had met at the last two musical events I had attended, the Handel concert at the cathedral with Maggie and the ballet at Covent Garden with Gwen. I was actually taking my seat between Maggie and Caroline when I finally spotted her, to my right and a couple of rows back. I almost missed her as I still had not got accustomed to her new soft and flowing hairstyle, she was wearing the same long gold sequined evening dress she had worn in London it hugged her petite figure alluringly. Our eyes met and she gave me a small wave and then turned back to the effete looking young man sitting beside her who I recognised as her son Charles.

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