Equal Shares Ch. 13bysteveh11©
On Thursday morning, Elizabeth took one look at Stan as he walked into the office and knew that her plan for him had worked, albeit not in the way she'd expected. He had a spring in his step, his face was open and content and he was whistling some tune or other.
She couldn't help smiling at Stan when he sat down, the same beatific look still on his face.
"You had a good night and all went well, I see," she told him.
"I had a great time, thanks, Elizabeth!" he replied. He told her about the date. Under questioning, he provided details about her dress, how she had arranged her hair... before he knew it Elizabeth had a complete description of the date, right up to them leaving Tennants.
"So, anything happen after?" she asked, sweetly. On seeing Stan's slight frown, she added quickly, "Oh, don't mind me. I'm just living vicariously, you know."
"That's okay, Elizabeth. We had a cup of coffee, then I left. Nothing more." 'This time! But it was close,' he added silently.
"Any more plans?"
A goofy smile on his face, he answered, "We're going out again tomorrow. Dunno where, yet. What about you?"
With a glint in her eye Elizabeth answered, "James came around after work yesterday to mow the lawn. I asked him in for a glass of wine afterwards." James was a guy who'd retired early, was five years younger than Elizabeth and was definitely smitten, Stan knew. They'd been 'doing a tap-dance' around having some sort of relationship for ages.
"Are you going to let him get closer than just 'interested', or are you going to keep him dangling?" Stan asked her. Elizabeth actually blushed. Stan was amazed as he'd never seen the normally very self-assured lady become embarrassed. She said, quietly, "I asked him to stay over."
"Oh... Oh!" Stan was surprised, but he recovered and continued, "Er, okay – things went well, I assume?" with a smirk.
"Enough! Yes. I'm seeing him again tomorrow, too. He's taking me out to dinner."
"Good. I always like my Elizabeth to have fun."
"Your Elizabeth?" she growled.
"Yes, and don't forget it!" he laughed.
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At lunchtime, Stan went to find Anne. Unfortunately, Anne also went to find Stan! There were ten minutes of finger pointing and "I just saw him" and "I just saw her" before they finally caught sight of one another.
Stan was wearing his usual plain shirt and trousers, this time grey and black, respectively. Anne had a blouse and wrap-around skirt, one light-, the other darker-brown. But her hair was up and the pendant that Stan had bought was on prominent display.
Stan saw Anne's face light up with a brilliant smile when she saw him. He realized his own face was similarly smiling. Together they walked into the canteen. Anne picked up a salad. Stan opted for the meat-pie and potatoes that was on offer.
Normally, Stan ate with a group from the Test department while Anne ate with some of her own colleagues. Today they grabbed a table for themselves. They sat together, reaching for their cutlery simultaneously, starting in on their meals with occasional glances up from concentrating on the food before them.
After a couple of minutes, Stan noticed something. Neither of them had said a word. He searched for something. The weather? No! Football? No! Music... Yes! Try music.
"I had a look at your bookshelves last night, Anne, but I never noticed your music collection. What sort of things do you like?" he asked.
Anne contemplated while chewing on a new potato. Finally, she said, "Bits and pieces. I'm a child of the eighties, so I love Madonna. One of my favourite songs for a long time was the one from 'Top Gun'. You know, Take my Breath Away. I love Queen, Freddie was great. More recently, I've come to like some of Elton John's stuff.
"I don't much like what they now call dance music, but I have to tell you even that's got something at the right time and place. Of course there's a lot of classical ballet music that I came to love while at school. I suppose that, in the end, I don't categorise music, I just like it or don't like it."
Stan, munching away on his meat pie, thought for a bit. Then he declared,
"Take my Breath Away was by Berlin. The rest of the album it's on, Count Three and Pray, is actually quite different. Madonna can be very, very good, or pretty awful. You're right about Queen, of course. Elton John? Well, if you put out as much as he's done, some will be poor, some will be good.
"That's a killer test you've just passed," he finished with a grin. "Our music tastes have enough in common for us to be together!" Anne threw a piece of cucumber at him.
"Well then, I'm so glad to have passed your test," she said caustically. "What sort of films do you like?"
"Romances, comedies, action films, war films – pretty much anything except straight horror. Even then I can sometimes get it – Texas Chainsaw Massacre was actually quite funny, although it certainly made one jump at times. Straw Dogs was wonderful. Both of those are so old, though. Most of the modern horror stuff is just slash, with little or no plot, it seems to me," Stan said, immediately.
"Good," said Anne. "I know we were going to wait until tomorrow, but I want to be with you tonight. So lets go to a movie!"
"What's on?" Stan asked, caught by surprise.
"I don't know," replied Anne. "We can check on the net. Hurry up! We can use my PC: choose a film and book the tickets at the same time."
So, the two trooped off back to the lab. Once there, they hunted for the website of the cinema in the town, finally choosing Prime with Uma Thurman. "A romance, I said I liked them," was Stan's comment. Anne was pleased as well.
That evening Anne called round to pick up Stan in her blue sports car. Stan wore a simple but clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt, with a light woollen sweater in case it was colder when they came out of the cinema later. Anne honked the horn outside his house, and Stan hurried out the door to get to her car before his neighbours complained.
As he climbed into the car Stan looked over at the blonde in the driving seat. Anne was wearing a black wraparound skirt and red v-necked top, cut conservatively yet still emphasising her figure.
Grinning like a thief, Anne gunned the engine and took off, heading for the town. Scant minutes later they were at the cinema. Anne threw the MX-5 into a parking spot with panache and skill.
"You enjoyed doing that a lot, didn't you?" asked Stan through a rather tight grin. It wouldn't be very macho to reveal the anxiety he'd felt during that ride!
"Yup!" Anne replied. "I don't throw my car around very often, but it's fun sometimes."
Stan crooked his arm and Anne slid hers through it. Together they walked into the cinema, bought tickets, drinks and popcorn, then found the screen showing their film.
Stan wasn't actually too interested in the movie, to be really honest about it. He liked Uma Thurman as a fine actress, and the film was more than okay, but what interested him was the woman sitting next to him, her hand in his. It was a simple intimacy, yet for Stan it was an incredible feeling. He felt every nerve in his left hand afire at her touch. Stan tried to pay attention to the movie, he really did! But if he'd been asked for a critical review afterwards, he'd have been hard-pressed for words.
Anne, for her part, thought that the film was fun in a superficial way, but that the heat of Stan's hand in hers, the occasional glance he'd make at her, the way his body was twisted slightly towards her all felt far more compelling.
The film finished, the credits started to come up. Anne habitually stayed to watch the credits; a lesson learned when one film she'd seen had a 'blooper reel' at the end. So when Stan stood, he found that his date didn't. Momentarily at a loss, Stan sat once again. Anne turned to him and asked, "Did you want to leave?"
"No, we're okay, we can stay here as long as you want," he replied.
They went back and forth for a couple of rounds, then Stan, wisely, shut up.
On the way home Stan wanted to think about whether or not to try for a kiss, but Anne once again sent the car flying through bends and into gaps only she appeared to think were big enough. Stan couldn't think as she threaded her way through the traffic, so they arrived at his house with him quite distracted.
Anne, on the other hand, knew what she was doing. With the car stopped, she unclipped her seat belt and leaned over. As she did so, Stan became aware for the first time that Anne had taken advantage of her smaller cup size – she'd gone without a bra and her nipples were quite visible through her shirt.
She gave Stan a kiss, then she leaned back into the seat and said, softly, "See you then Stan. Tomorrow!" There was a wealth of promise in that one word.
Stan looked at Anne in the same way a rabbit looks at an oncoming truck. "Go on, Stan. Shoo!" she told him, softly, and Stan shook himself and opened the car door. After getting out he leaned back into the car and said, "Till tomorrow, then," and closed the door. Anne waved, gunned the engine and drove off, leaving Stan waving back.
- - - - - - - - - -
On Friday, at lunchtime, Stan and Anne once again ate together. Neither made much in the way of small talk, they were, instead, deep inside their heads.
Stan emerged from his reverie, thought of something, and asked...
"Where are we going tonight? We haven't discussed it."
They looked at each other, and Anne giggled.
"Oh, let's go down to the Mitre and get sloshed. It's a Friday, we can get a cab there, have a little fun. There's bound to be other people we know there as well. How about it?"
"Sounds like a plan to me!"
- - - - - - - - - -
That evening, Stan heard the honk of a cab outside his door and hurried outside. He eagerly found Anne's smiling face looking up at him through the open door. Sliding in, he closed the cab door, said, "Thanks!" to the driver, settled into his seat and buckled up his seat belt. Finally, he was able to look across the seat at Anne.
Tonight she was in a sheer white spaghetti-strap dress. Stan was glad it wasn't raining – it looked like it would go pretty transparent in a hurry. Anne's long blonde hair was down tonight, some of it escaping to partially cover her left eye.
Anne was studying Stan, as well. He was wearing a simple black t-shirt and trousers, but at least it wasn't a geeky T, or one with a band logo on it. Stan's short thinning hair, with just a few grey ones shining up in the last rays of the sun, had been trimmed, she noted. She found herself wondering who'd done it. Was she actually envious of whoever had had their hands on him?
Arriving at the Mitre, Stan paid the cab driver and the two linked arms. Reaching the door, Stan held it open for Anne to precede him.
They walked in to the busy bar finding, as they expected, that there were no tables free. Stan made his way to the bar with Anne following behind, her hand in his. While they were waiting for their drinks, Stan heard a voice calling his name. He turned, and saw Elaine at a table, waving him over. He nudged Anne, indicating the pretty young blonde with his eyes, and mouthed, "Go!"
By the time Stan had been served and paid for the drinks, Anne was sitting with Elaine. The two were in earnest conversation. As Stan approached, the noise level, that was so intense at the bar, reduced enough so he could hear what they were saying.
"She probably just forgot," said Anne to Elaine. "Thanks, Stan!" as he put the drinks on the table.
"Who forgot what?" said Stan.
"Denise, you dummy!" said Elaine. "She was supposed to be ringing in today to tell us how she got on! With all the extra security stuff and the cancelled flights, I was worried about her."
"Oh, yes, she's back from holiday today, isn't she. She was going to ring me, too, come to think of it." 'Oh well, she's got my cell phone number now,' Stan mused. After the previous phone-tag, they'd exchanged numbers.
Of course, Stan had to repeat all of that, louder. It was better here at the table, but still quite noisy.
"So you haven't heard anything either? Do you think we should call her?" asked Elaine.
"Sounds like a good idea to me," said Stan, getting the phone out of his pocket. He called up her number and dialled.
"Hello? Jim?" came Denise's voice.
"No, sorry. It's me, Stan. We wondered if you were okay, got home all right, that sort of thing. You know, why you hadn't called?"
Stan heard a sigh through the speaker.
"Oh, sorry. No... No undue problems coming in. The long lines and delays were all going out. Er, Stan, I'm waiting for a phone call. Um, look, could you..." Denise asked.
"Of course! Look, I just wanted to tell you that we're down at the Mitre if you want to join us. I'll get off the line. See you soon! Monday at the latest, yes?"
"Thanks Stan. I'll just probably stay here... my dreamboat might call the landline instead. See ya!" Denise broke the connection. Stan folded up his phone and replaced it in his pocket, while saying,
"It looks like Denise has picked up a fella!" he told the two women. "She's going to wait there to see if he calls, it sounds like she's excited at the prospect!"
Elaine grinned, but Anne wasn't clued in. "What's that about? Did Denise pick up a guy on holiday?"
"Sounds like it!" Elaine told her, "She's quick, that girl!"
"Talking of girls, where's Susan?" Stan asked Elaine.
"She'll be here in a minute, she pulled a late shift tonight and only finished at eight o'clock." Elaine told him.
Sure enough, a few minutes later Susan arrived, looking tired but happy to see Elaine, who immediately got up so her partner could sit, and she went to the bar to get drinks.
"Rough day?" asked Stan of Susan.
"The pits. Still, the day's over, the night's young, and my girlfriend smiles at me, so all's not lost!"
Elaine returned with the drinks and sat on Susan's lap, giving her the occasional kiss on the cheek. Susan's smile just kept on going and going. Stan saw out of the corner of his eye Anne watch the pair. She seemed to be squirming in her seat, just a little. Stan, concerned, leaned over and said as softly as he could to be heard,
"Do they bother you doing that? I just think it's lovely to see."
Anne immediately reversed their position so that she could talk directly into his ear. She said, equally softly,
"No, no. It's not that, it's just that I... never mind. No, it doesn't bother me, but I'll tell you later."
On Fridays the bar was open until late; typically the owner would keep things going until the wee hours of the morning Fridays and Saturdays. Both Stan and Anne had stuff to do at home though, and neither wanted to drink too much, so they left around midnight.
On their way to the cab rank, Anne snuggled into Stan's shoulder to keep warm. Without any need for thought he put his arm around her. Anne idly stroked her fingers over the bare skin of the back of his hand.
"This feels nice," he told her, and she merely answered, "Mmmm, yes."
"So what was it about Elaine and Susan that was bothering you? Please don't tell me you're homophobic," Stan asked, with concern. He wanted to be close to Anne, but he liked the two women. "I really think they're a good couple."
"Oh, no Stan. That didn't bother me at all. I just... I just wanted to do that with you. To climb onto your lap, to..."
Stan stopped, turning to face Anne. He asked her delicately, "To do what, Anne?"
Anne leaned down towards him, face open, her hands on his hips.
"Anne? To what?" repeated Stan, still unsure of her meaning.
"Oh, God. You're clueless, you know. This..."
Anne leaned down a little more, lifted her right hand to the back of Stan's head, and kissed him on the lips.
Stan's world shrunk to the sensation of her lips on his, her tongue licking and then duelling with his as the kiss deepened. He felt her hand pulling his face onto her, controlling the kiss. He responded as best he could, but it was Anne who was in charge, Anne who was driving, and now she was in her sports car mode and the kiss was urgent, needy.
She broke off, taking a breath, watching him closely.
"Not too fast, is it Stan? I didn't think I'd be able to trust another guy, especially another older guy after Daniel, but I'd like to try with you. I want to be your girlfriend, not just someone you're dating, just tell me if I'm going too fast for you," she got out in a rush.
Stan was in shock. In truth it was faster than he'd expected, but he'd made his peace with Caron earlier – it was Anne's unexpected heat that had got to him. A week ago they'd been mere work acquaintances. He'd thought of Anne as an unattainable objective, now he had his arms around her and she'd given him a kiss that fully compared with anything he'd had with Caron. He didn't really know what to think, so he tried levity, saying only,
"I have my arms around a beautiful woman who's kissing me to within an inch of my life. What's to complain about?"
She punched him in the chest, not too lightly. "Going to chalk me up as a conquest are you, Stan?" she challenged.
Stan quickly went serious.
"No, Anne, never! Look, this isn't really fair. You're only the second woman to ever kiss me like that. I don't honestly know what to think. But, too fast? No, no, no! With Caron we got that far on our first date."
"You're a fast mover, huh? I wouldn't have known. You seemed utterly clueless just now," she told him, eyebrows raised at the last phrase.
"Actually, when I think about it, back then all I did was put my arm around her. I was frightened silly and far too nervous and naïve to do any more than that. Caron took control and kissed me. Rather like you did just now!" he told the grinning Anne.
"I can believe that. You'll have to change your email signature file to 'Clueless in the U.K.', I think!"
"Humph! Let's get a cab," was his only reply, and the two walked off towards the rank with their arms now around each other.
They were lucky. A cab was parked, waiting. Stan gave the driver Anne's address, and they were soon on their way.
Anne and Stan looked at one another. She leaned over, Stan did the same, and they kissed. The electric touch of her lips ran through Stan. He drew back slightly, turning his eyes to the driver to see if he'd watched – then did it again.
Just before they reached Anne's house, she leaned over in the backseat of he cab towards Stan, putting a finger to her lips and cupping an ear, wanting to say something that the driver wouldn't hear. Stan leaned in, and Anne whispered into his ear,
"Do you want to come in?"
"For coffee? I guess... I can always get a different cab home from here," Stan whispered back.
She gave him a sultry look, then leaned in again and whispered, "Who said anything about coffee?"
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