The Touch Ch. 35byGreenFingers2015©
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.
My apologies! This chapter may meander even more than usual as it is part of a collection of several very short 'day in the life' journal style entries which have now been linked to make up a readable chapter.
Chapter 35: A Present from France
The weekend had been quite relaxing as we all spent it together, Gwen, Emma, Maggie and I, just doing family things. As promised, Maggie took us all out to dinner on Saturday night at The Old Rectory near Warminster; it was the same hotel where we had a contract to refurbish the gardens in July but Maggie was the only one who had eaten there since the new owners re-launched the restaurant, and it was the first chance that I had to look at the grounds. The owner naturally recognised Maggie and gave us all the guided tour of the hotel and the gardens, there was a lot of work to be done to bring the grounds up to a high standard.
I figured that The Old Rectory Hotel was similar to the type of venue that Philippa was planning for Shelby House and made a mental note to tell her about it and maybe invite her out there for lunch or dinner. I was a little bit concerned that she want me to 'fix' her garden but hadn't really indicated what it was that she wanted to see as an end product and explaining to her the ideas that Maggie had visualised for the Old Rectory might give Philippa some focus.
The recently re-launched boutique restaurant at the Old Rectory was good, the food was very Cordon Bleu style, the chef was French, and Maggie and I shared an enormous double platter serving of Calf's Liver with Orange and Gwen and Emma each had the Sole Joinville with prawn butter. Maggie had picked us up and driven us over in the Range Rover, I was driving back and so we each had a single glass of Mouton Cadet and Emma had a mineral water. Emma had never been big on alcohol the way that many teenagers were but since she started driving had almost completely given it up. Maggie surprised us by ordering a bottle of champagne with our chocolate soufflés to celebrate Emma getting her driving licence and my being accepted to university.
As we were all planning to spend Sunday at Maggie's place anyway, we had brought our overnight bags and went straight there from the restaurant and stayed the night. It was nearly mid-night when we got in and Emma was dead beat and went up to bed almost immediately whilst Maggie, Gwen and I took our mugs of Cointreau laced chocolate and went out into the garden as it was another pleasantly mild evening.
The three of us sat and talked and smoked on the same arbour bench seat that Gwen and I had made love on at Easter; I don't think that Maggie noticed the little grins that kept passing between us or the way that Gwen nudged my knee with hers every few minutes. When we returned to the house I desperately wanted to say goodnight to her properly; to hold her close for a few minutes, to drown in one of her soft breathtakingly erotic kisses, but I had to make do with a chaste peck on the cheek from both Gwen and Maggie as we went to our separate rooms. It was tantalising and frustrating sleeping in the same house with both of them and not being able to share a bed with either.
I was up early as usual, it was my on-duty Sunday to check the greenhouses and do the watering at the garden centre and so I pulled on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and walked down and spent an hour or so with watering cans and the hose. It was one of those jobs that I quite liked doing, it was a gentle, mindless chore that occupied your hands but gave you time to think; I always found it relaxing.
Gwen and Maggie planned to spend the day fussing about the house, although it looked good to me already, getting ready for Luci and Lulu's homecoming, vacuuming, changing bedding and the like; and so I volunteered Emma and myself to make the breakfasts and cook lunch, much to her chagrin.
My sister was not at all domestically minded, until just recently her room had always had the appearance of a trashed rubbish tip, I don't think that she even knew that Mum possessed a vacuum cleaner, and I seriously believed that she would rather starve than cook herself a meal. I had to admit that recently she had been trying.... without any prompting she had started to help Gwen with some of the household chores and I had even persuaded her to help with a few simple tasks in the kitchen although I believed that it would be a serious health risk to actually encourage her to cook. I really didn't mind... Gwen was a fantastic cook and I was pretty sharp in the kitchen and enjoyed cooking.
Maggie had put a nice gammon joint in water to soak over night and I let that simmer for most of the morning and then made up a mango, ginger and clove sauce, whilst Emma prepared a large tray of diced root vegetables for roasting. When the meat was well boiled I wrapped it in foil with chunks of the fruit and some crystallised ginger, dowsed it with a glass of Stone's Ginger Wine and put it into the oven on a slow heat, it could stay there for a couple of hours without coming to any harm.
I had promised Caroline that I would run over and see her with the early plans for her London project and so fetched the Land Rover from the garden centre and drove across town to Bishopdown. She was really pleased with the way the garden looked now that it was almost completed; no garden is ever fully finished, there are always small changes and additions to be made every season, but there was very little work left to do that summer.
"I really am thrilled with what you have done here, Jamie," she enthused, "It is absolutely fabulous.... Better than I ever expected."
She had made us both coffees and we were sitting on her decking patio in two of the new garden chairs that Steve had delivered on Saturday morning. The garden furniture that she had ordered was, as you would expect, top of the range each piece with its own waterproof cover and would just fit neatly into her little shed during the winter months. I had sweated blood over those measurements but they had worked out fine.
"Hopefully, I shall be out from under your feet by the end of next week," I told her, "One of us will come in during the week and top dress the lawn, then you can have your garden to yourself without my team in and out all the time and I have booked an entry in the garden centre diary for somebody to come in Friday afternoon each week to weed the flower beds and tidy up before you come down at the week-end."
"I hope that doesn't mean that you are glad to be shot of me?" she grinned, pouting in mock indignation, "You have still got my roof garden to do, and I shall expect you to at least supervise it personally.... and I am expecting you to be here for my little garden party in two weeks time."
"Aha! That's why you needed us to complete the work by the 20th. I guess."
"It isn't a big affair just a handful of the other partners and associates from my company, and a couple of friends, but I really would like you to be there, you can tell Maggie that she is invited as well... and bring that lovely artist lady...er... Rebecca."
"Thank you I would love to accept," I told her, I remembered Maggie saying that those were the type of potential clients that we needed to impress and cultivate. "Unfortunately my aunt is going to be away in France, but I am sure Mrs. Hill will be pleased to come." I would have liked to have brought Gwen as 'my date' but that would seriously have been pushing our luck even though she was technically a director of the company.
"Wow, I have just had a stupendous idea," she gushed grabbing my arm. "Do you think you can get her to do another watercolour of the finished garden and have it ready for the party... the other two she painted are on the wall of my office and everybody was really impressed with them... please make her do it, Jamie... do it for me...please!" She leaned in close, her generous breasts pressed tightly against my arm and touched her pouty 'Marilyn Monroe-esque' lips to my cheek, blatantly flirting to get what she wanted; but that was the way that Caroline was. I wasn't certain if she would ever deliver the goods, or even if I really wanted her to but she was certainly very alluring and sexy and great fun to flirt with.
"OK," I laughed, "I will try... I am meeting with Becca tomorrow to discuss doing some sketches of your London project and other work, and so, I will ask her then... if she agrees I will give her a key to the garden gate and she can come out and take some photographs or work out here from life if the weather holds out."
I needed to get back to Maggie's to finish off the lunch and so made my apologies and she walked with me to the car still chattering happily about the garden and clinging to my arm. "Call me when you are coming up to London again and we can get that lunch that you promised to buy me," she said and hooked my face down to her to give me a soft moist, groin tingling, kiss on the lips before closing the car door and stepping back so that I could drive away.
It had turned out to be another nice, mild sunny day and so Emma and I dragged the big wooden table around from the pool area and set it up for lunch on the patio outside the dining room.
We had talked about the twins coming home for Emma's birthday but it wasn't until we were chatting after lunch that I realised that their Aunt Nikki would be flying over with them and staying with Maggie for the week before they all went back to France. She was the sister of Maggie's first husband Robert De Vere, the twin's father, who had died when I was about six I think...I only vaguely remembered him but had never met Aunt Nikki at all, she had married a French farmer, Andre Bardin, and moved to Dijon to live before I was born. As far as I knew this was the first time that she had been back to England to visit Maggie although Lulu and Luci had often spent a couple of weeks at her farm during the school holidays. The Bardin's had no children of their own and loved to have the twins staying with them during the summer and the girl's enjoyed being there because the farm had a stable of quality riding horses.
I was sitting at one end of the table laughing with Emma; she was taunting me about taking up golf again and I was teasing her about her riding, just brother and sister stuff. Gwen and Maggie were sat at the other end of the table talking quietly and I just caught the gist of their conversation, I don't think that Emma picked up on it at all.... they were talking about Aunt Nikki.
".... I am really not happy about it.... But she loves the girls and they adore her..." Maggie was saying.
"It's only for a couple of weeks, one week here and another ten days at Dijon ... surely you can put up with her for that long?" Gwen replied. I guessed that everything was not perfect between Maggie and her sister-in-law, but there are skeletons in every family closet; I should not really have been eaves-dropping and returned to giving Emma my full attention.
Monday morning was aggravated for me because I had stupidly double booked myself out to do two things at the same time. I had arranged to meet Becca Hill at the garden centre for coffee at ten o'clock but had also picked up a job card to visit a new customer to give an estimate for laying a lawn and put in a decorative water feature and fish pond at a house off Manor Farm Road on the eastern outskirts of Salisbury, also at ten. Rather than cancel either one I called Becca and suggested that instead of her coming to the garden centre I would call and pick her up from her house, I thought that we could talk whilst I did the estimate and then drive on the half mile or so to Bishopdown and Caroline's garden so that she could take photographs.
It had just turned nine-thirty when I pulled into Becca's drive in the Land Rover and tooted the horn to let her know that I had arrived. The front door opened and she stepped out carrying her sketch case and her big camera bag was slung over her shoulder. She was dressed in a pale blue shirt, over washed out jeans and her auburn hair shone in the early morning sun, she looked terrific. She smiled, waved and started towards the car, I got down and walked round to take her bags. Just as she handed them to me there was a shout from the house.
"Mum!" It was Josh. He was standing in the doorway dressed in nothing but his under-pants and a pair of socks. "Mum...." He called. "Where are my grey jeans? I can't find them...." Josh was one of my best friends we had been mates for years but he could be a total idiot at times and I sometimes believed that he was getting worse as he got older. I guessed that he probably had a hangover from the night before, as was usual.
He saw me and waved, "Hi Jamie, mate! Mum, where are my jeans?"
I swapped amused grins with Becca and she called back to him quietly, "They are hanging in your wardrobe, dear."
"I can't see them....come and find them for me..." he whined like a lazy child expecting his mother to run around after him.
"Your mother is busy...... we are eloping together!" I called back to him laughing. For a long moment he just stood there with his mouth open until the penny dropped that I was in fact joking.
"Oh yeah.... Like that is going to happen, "he chortled. "Who the hell would want to run off with my mum?"
Becca must have sensed that I had tightened up in preparation to saying something protective. In my view Josh and his father treated Becca like shit a lot of the time, not so much intentional cruelty more a lack of appreciation, and I know that she was often hurt by their insensitivity. She just climbed into the cab of the Land Rover and said quietly, "Hadn't we better be going, Jamie dear?"
I let it drop and climbed up to the driver seat and then, on a sudden impulse grabbed up the small camera that I kept in the glove compartment, stood on the door sill and waved it at Josh. "Smile for the camera, Joshie babe," I laughed clicking the shutter furiously, "Let's get a shot of those Y fronts for the college notice board!"
"You're a bastard, Jamie!" he shouted, but he was grinning widely as he leapt into the house and slammed the door. Josh was a basically nice guy but he was devoid of any sensitive feelings either for other people or even himself.
Becca and I were both chuckling as I backed out of the drive and turned into the road but she was very quiet as we drove across the city to Manor Farm Road, not at all her normal cheerful self. She stayed in the car whilst I spent 20 minutes or so looking at the client's garden, taking some photographs and listening to his ideas. I told him I would take my notes back to the office and send him an estimate in the next few days.
When I got back into the Land Rover Becca was still very subdued and so I drove north up Cow Lane until we entered the small copse of oak trees just before the junction with the main road to Bishopsdown and pulled into a concealed side track and parked. She just sat quietly looking out of the window and I don't think that she had really registered that we had stopped driving.
I lit a cigarette and sat for a minute or so before speaking. "What is it, Becca?" I asked gently.
She smiled sadly and shook her head. "Nothing really.... Just female silliness I guess .... It is just that everything is changing...moving on... Josh will be leaving home in September, going to university and Tim has just announced that he will be going away as well at the end of the year."
Tim was her younger son, he was the same age as Emma and had just received his A- level results, but I had not heard that he had made a decision about his future.
"I didn't know that," I said, "What has he decided to do?"
She took a deep breath. "He has decided to join the army.... Well not actually the army, the Royal Marines!"
"Wow!" I exclaimed. It was a bit of a surprise but then Tim had always been far more activity orientated than his older brother, keen on sports and very practical and down to earth. I guess his choice of career was probably not that much of a shock after all.
"If he gets through his assessment, which I am sure he will," she went on, "then he will be off to Lympstone officer training centre for fifteen months in November."
"I guess your place is going to be pretty quiet with only you and Leslie once the boys are gone?"
She managed a small laugh. "I don't see that much of the three of them now... they are always away fishing at the week-ends, Leslie spends more time with a fishing rod than with me, and the boys have their own lives to live....but they will leave a big gap in my life, I suppose."
I crushed out my cigarette and shuffled along the bench seat to put my arm around her shoulders. She leaned her head on my shoulder; I could smell the delicate perfume of her shampoo and the warmth of her breath against my cheek and felt myself starting to become aroused by her soft nearness.
"Well, just think of all the extra time you will have for your painting and needlework .... I will put commissions your way whenever I can... you could even take up painting professionally..... or get a job if you wanted one, you could go back to teaching."
"...and who is going to want to employ me? Josh was right.... I am just a dowdy housewife, the wrong side of forty with an out of date art degree, who hasn't worked for twenty years.... Totally useless." Her deep green-blue eyes which were usually so full of sparkle looked sad and close to tears.
"Bullshit!" I exploded. I cupped her chin in the palm of my hand and turned her face toward me. "Josh is a pillock.... and you are far from being dowdy or useless.... you are very intelligent, very talented and very....very.... sexy and beautiful!"
Her lovely eyes were starting to un-cloud and regain some of their sparkle. I tipped her face towards mine and our lips touched in a soft gentle kiss; not a kiss of raging passion but a feather bed kiss, warm and comforting.
"God Jamie, you are SO good for me...." she smiled. Her arms snaked around my neck and her lips brushed against mine softly as she whispered, "Tell me that bit about being sexy and beautiful again... I liked that part..."
I turned her towards me and found her lips again with mine. Her body was suddenly soft and yielding and my head was full of the sweetish perfume of her shampoo, jasmine and rose petal, her mouth was soft and eager and our lips separated to allow our tongues to touch, the tips probing at each other gently, I tasted the sweetness of her pale pink lipstick, I think it was strawberry. I could feel the tips of her fingers burrowing into the back of my hair and my own hands found her breasts each of my palms cupping a mature ample roundness. I could feel the firmness of her nipples through her soft cotton bra and her shirt.
"Oh Jamie, I have missed seeing you.... " she murmured against my ear.
Our lips came together again this time our mouths wrestling into a deep passionate kiss, our tongues twirling and darting, a kiss that went on and on until we were forced to break apart by the need to breathe. We had slid down on the smooth leather bench seat so that I was laying half over her our bodies pressed together and my rigid prick trapped tightly between us against her belly.
"You ARE sexy and beautiful, Becca," I told her softly, "and very desirable... and I want you... I want to make love to you!"
"Oh God, YES.... Yes, yes." She whispered, her own need making her voice smoky and dark.
I felt her hands move between us as she plucked at the snapper on her jeans and raised her hips to ease them down around her thighs as I mirrored her actions my erection springing free between us, the glans tingling as it came to rest on her bare stomach. I felt my jeans and shorts flop to the floor of the cab.