The Touch Ch. 37byGreenFingers©
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.
This chapter may seem to ramble even more than usual as it was originally several very short parts which have been combined into a single chapter.
Chapter 37: King of the Castle
Friday turned out to be pretty hectic. With both Maggie and Emma leaving for France on Sunday there was a lot that needed to be sorted out before they went. I spent most of the morning in the office as Emma wanted to make sure that Tayler and I were fully conversant with the administration, cashiers and payroll duties that we would be sharing whilst she was away.
Tayler was proving to be worth her considerable weight in gold, she was a fully qualified book keeper and a quick study, had picked up the garden centre routine almost instantly and was perfectly happy to stay in the main office all day, dealing with the admin tasks and answering the telephones. She and Emma worked well together and had become firm friends and Emma had given Maggie and I glowing reports as to her efficiency. She was popular with the other members of staff, but was a little bit nervous about meeting customers face to face however, that was not really part of her daily duties and presented no issues. She had offered to work through without a day off whilst Emma was away; an offer which I was more than pleased to accept but I had insisted that she had Saturday off to compensate.
I had initially thought that Tayler was a bit odd, she was twenty-two, seriously overweight, with bright green, short cropped hair, and dressed like a punk, with quite a lot of facial piercing but seldom wore much of her flamboyant jewellery at work. She was absolutely brilliant at accounts work with a wicked sense of humour which appealed to my own warped idea of what was funny.
She got on with the boys because she could match them pint for pint in the pub and still stay sober and could thrash all of them except for Steve at snooker or pool, and the girls found her comfortably non-competitive as she was proud of being gay. As far as I knew she did not have a current partner and lived at home with her parents and seemed perfectly content with that arrangement. I liked her a lot.
Maggie had been out with Kitty and Colin for most of the morning touring the larger jobs that they would be working on for the next week or so and making sure that they were happy with their assignments and had everything that they needed. With both Maggie and Emma away I would probably be unable to put much time in on the outside work although Colin and Kitty really needed very little supervision; I was happy that Taylor could run the office without any problems and Jack was as solid as a rock and capable of dealing with any other issue that might arise at the garden centre.
We had agreed to meet when she got back and go over any last minute issues that she wanted to hand off to me. I poured us some coffees and we sat together on the couch in our office whilst she updated me on things that I needed to know. We talked every day and so there were seldom any work matters that were not totally shared between us but the truth was that I wanted to spend a little time alone with Maggie before she left for France.
It was Friday and Gwen and Maggie were planning to have their regular 'twins night out' as usual, Maggie was out for the day with the twins on Saturday, they would all be driving down to Dover in the early hours Sunday morning and so this was my last opportunity to spend an hour or so with her so I was just going to make the most of sitting close to her on the couch, feeling the warmth of her thigh against mine and sharing silly small jokes about silly small things.
"One final task to do and then I will take you over to the pub and buy you that lunch I promised you," Maggie said. She got up and went to her desk for a large envelope, and the big office desk diary, refilled our coffee mugs and then sat down again. "We need to sort out the ticket allocations and times out for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show at the end of the month."
The Royal Horticultural Society, Chelsea Flower Show was the premier horticultural event of the British gardener's calendar and was held annually at the end of May or early June, that year it was to be the week that Maggie returned from France. Maggie always went up to London for the last three days and in previous years, I had also made the trip on the final Saturday and Jack usually took a couple of days out to attend as well.
This year with the re-launch of the garden centre Maggie and I had decided to buy the expensive tickets for any of the staff that wanted to go to the show and we would both go up on the Thursday and stay through the Saturday. Most of the full time staff had shown an interest and we needed to sort out which day each could be released to attend and still leave us sufficient cover for the daily business.
Emma had traded off going to Chelsea as she had asked for a weeks holiday later in August to go with Philippa and Janice to the Burghley Horse Trials, and so would be 'duty manager' in charge with both Maggie and I away, but it still took us a good hour to match everyone to the tickets and days. At the end we had three spares; two of which we both agreed we could offer to the new members of staff Benson and Libby who were starting at the week-end.
We had decided that we would pay for all the staff entry tickets and count the trip as a paid working day as a little thank you gesture for all the extra hard work that the whole team had put in that year. Everybody was thrilled with that offer and I was seriously looking forward to those three days with in London with Maggie. She had already booked us two rooms at the Draycott Hotel, which was the hotel that she used every year and was close to Sloane Square and within walking distance of the Royal Hospital where the exhibition was centred.
"I am really looking forward to the trip... it is going to be a lot of fun..." I told her as we finished making the diary entries. In actual fact most of the days were going to be hard work as we would be spending a lot of time checking out the trade stands and looking for new hybrids and varieties of plants to add to our range at the garden centre. We had already put together a shopping list of products to look for and Jack had been given a budget to use as he pleased on acquiring new strains of plants for the next year.
"There had better be some fun involved," Maggie laughed, "Don't forget that you still owe me a special date.... I am still one down, you know." It had been a running tease between us since I took Gwen to London for the week-end to the ballet.
"Yeah, I'm working on it...." I chuckled, "There are several good burger bars near-by and I think there is even a Kentucky Chicken take-away."
I put my arms over my head and rolled into a ball on the couch as she started to pummel me furiously with a rolled up magazine, both of us laughing and squealing. In fact, I had already taken care of my special treat for Maggie; Gwen and I had got together secretly to arrange a couple of things for the evenings that we were in London, but I wasn't going to spoil the surprise by telling her before we got there.
As usual, we were still messing about when Emma put her head around the office door.
"Bloody hell, are you two pissing about again, "She laughed, "Am I the only one who ever does any work around here."
We were both still giggling stupidly but tried to put on serious faces.
"I have just had Aunt Nikki on the telephone for you Jay," she announced. "Her train will be getting into Salisbury about 4:30 and she wanted you to collect her...."
I felt a cold chill grip my balls and glanced across at Maggie, she was grinning mischievously and raised an eyebrow. I really did not want to put myself in Nikki's path, not because I didn't like her but because I did. When it came to sex and women my dick was the senior partner and my brain tended to take a rear seat and I knew that if Nikki seriously came on to me I would probably not be able to resist her for long. Spending time with Nikki would be fun and I knew that shagging with her would probably be fantastic if it got that far however unlikely, but my brain told me that afterwards I would feel terribly disloyal to Maggie whom I adored; I would seriously piss off Gwen who I genuinely loved more than anything in the world and I would be giving Nikki a rod to beat Maggie with if she so chose.
My face must have indicated my feelings because Maggie came to my rescue. "I will go and fetch her," she said.
"No need," Emma smiled, "It is already taken care of.... My friend Monique is going to be arriving by train from Winchester for our girl's night out, about the same time and so I have arranged to pick them both up. I will drop Aunt Nikki off and then take Monique home to our house, and then come back to work..."
"That is great, Emms," I grinned in relief, I think that Maggie was relieved as well. "I owe you one for that so just take the rest of the afternoon off... Tayler and I can cover... get ready for your night out, OK?"
A little bit later Maggie and I sat in the bar of the pub finishing off the half-pints of Guinness we had enjoyed with our steak and kidney pies.
"Thanks Maggie," I said, "For offering to collect Nikki from the station....."
"Your mother told me last night that Nikki had you running scared...." She chuckled, "But it is Emma you should thank, she rescued us both."
"I hope that things aren't going to be too awful between you and Nikki next week."
"Oh she isn't really that bad...." She smiled, "We can usually manage a truce for the time I am there with the girls... I think that things were especially stressful on Tuesday it being the first time that she had been inside Robert's house... he designed and built it you know... well, since the funeral." She smiled sadly, "I guess it brought back bad memories for both of us."
We were sitting side by side on one of the wooden settle seats and it wasn't until I went to put my arm around her in a gesture of comfort that I realised we were lightly holding hands. It had been a sub-conscious action and I don't think that either of us had realised we were doing it. I wasn't in a hurry to move and left my hand curled around hers until we got up to leave.
"Anyway, I have got a trip to London with my sexy nephew to look forward to when I return..." she laughed, squeezing my arm as we left the pub and walked across the road back to the garden centre. "So just stay away from Nikki tonight, I want you all in one piece. Have you decided where you are going to take me for our special evening out, yet? I need to know what to bring to wear."
"Hmmmm.... Just your birthday suit," I teased, "Does the hotel have a swimming pool ... you and I have unfinished business......!"
She chased me giggling across the car park and up the stairs to the office.
"Oh God," Emma groaned looking up from her desk. "It's worse than trying to work in a school playground with you two idiots!"
She was probably right but I didn't care, I was idiotically happy. Oddly, I think that Maggie was happy as well.
I was just doing my final rounds, making sure that all customers were off the premises before locking up when I heard the familiar scrunch of gravel as a vehicle pulled into the car park.
"Oh, bugger!" I muttered beneath my breath and started towards the front of the compound, I really didn't want a last minute customer who would maybe hang about for ages. There was only one car so it must belong to the newcomer. Everybody else had gone home but Mikey was standing by the main gate and so I shouted across to him, "It's OK, just lock up and go I will look after the customer..."
"It isn't a...." he started and then just waved and went off towards the bicycle racks.
The customer had got out of their car, a small dark red 1970's Fiat 126, and was leaning against it with her arms folded on the roof. I didn't recognise her immediately but as I walked over I realised that it was Joanna Robbins. I had not seen her since she and Debbie went back to Cardiff University after the Christmas recess. She had still had her broken leg in plaster then.
We both waved and smiled at the same time and she stepped around the car towards me, the leg was obviously healed as the cast was gone.
"Hi Jo... what are you doing here?" I asked and swept her up so that her feet were dangling above the ground.
"Right now? Right now I'm trying to draw some air into my lungs...put me down you great lump.." she laughed.
"OK," I lowered her back to earth, "It's really great to see you Jo, and so what ARE you doing here? Are you going out with Emma tonight?" I knew that both Joanna and Debbie had sent her birthday cards.
"Oh no, I was just passing and thought that I would drop in and say hello..... but you are closing up... so I won't stop... " she said quietly. She was smiling but something about her eyes told me that there was more to her visit than just passing.
"No... no... don't go... stay for as long as you want," I said quickly, "Come into the office and I'll make you a cup of tea. You haven't seen the new offices and the restaurant since they were completed, have you?"
"No, I can't stop, I really DO have to be somewhere shortly," she replied.
"So what about later.... Can you meet me for a drink.... I haven't got food in for tonight yet, I could buy you dinner somewhere."
She walked back around the car and opened the door and then smiled at me across the roof. "Yes, that would be great, how about we meet at the Berni Inn...say about eight?"
"You will be there, won't you?" I was starting to feel a bit concerned, nothing she had said, just a gut feeling.
"Yes, I'll be there. See you at eight then." She got into the driver seat and reversed around and then drove up to the main gate. I walked alongside and let her out onto the road and then locked up again. Whatever was upsetting Joanna I would find out later but meanwhile she had solved an issue for me... everybody else was out for the evening the girls were clubbing in Salisbury, Maggie and Gwen were going to the cinema which left Nikki and myself as loose ends; at least I now had a truthful reason for not keeping her company.
I decided that I would leave the moped at the garden centre and take the Land Rover for the evening, I didn't know if the car Joanna was driving was hers or just borrowed and I knew from experience that it was a pain in the arse getting a cab back from her mother's place as they had no telephone.
When I got home the drive was already full of cars. Naturally I recognised the twin's Polo and Emma's Beetle but there were two other cars that I did not know plus the Land Rover from Shelby's Riding stables and Kitty's motorbike. Inside the house was a veritable cyclone of female frenzy as Emma and her friends prepared to go out for the evening.
Most of the girls were in the sitting room ready to go into town; as well as Lauren and Luci, Emma had invited Kitty and Tayler from work, Janice, two other girls that I did not recognise, probably old school or college friends and another girl who looked familiar and I recognised as Monique Camilleri, the girl who had arrived by train that afternoon.
I vaguely remembered her as one of the bevy of girls that Emma hung out with in her early teens along with Janice Copman and like Jan she had blossomed into an attractive young woman. She had a pretty face framed by a mass of long almost raven black hair, a southern European complexion, and a rounded, shapely figure, in tight fitting white jeans and a loose sequinned t-shirt gathered at the waist with a wide black suede belt emphasising her full breasts. I hazily remembered that her family were Italian or something, they had moved to Winchester after she had finished school in Salisbury.
She gave me a big sexy smile and came over to speak. "Hello Jamie, I bet you don't remember me...do you?" she purred.
"Oh yes I do..." I retorted, "But the last time we met you were about fourteen as I recall, you were in your tennis whites and going with Emma to play tennis at the recreation grounds."
"Wow! You have a fantastic memory." She smiled. My fantastic memory was probably triggered by recalling that she had a fantastic arse, even as a school girl, in those frilly tennis knickers and micro short skirt. "I still play tennis.... My father built me a tennis court at home; you used to be a good player you must come down to Winchester some time.."
"Yes, maybe I will." I said. She still had a fantastic arse and I watched it in those tight white jeans as she walked back to join the others.
Janice came over and gave me a hug. "Do I need to be jealous of Mona?" she grinned.
"No... not at all..." I lied.
"Have you done anything about Emma yet?" she asked in a whisper, "She does seem a lot less frustrated..... er, less virginal."
"Shhhhhh!" I hissed and quickly glanced around to see who might be eaves dropping. I knew that she was deliberately teasing me and drew her over towards the others hoping that their proximity would restrict her fun.
"You need to show me which is your bedroom..." she whispered conspiratorially, as she moved away "You DO know that we are all staying for a sleep-over tonight when we get back from town...don't you?" I hadn't known until that point and to be honest the prospect was totally terrifying... I could lock my door for privacy, that was not a problem but I knew just how much noise, shrieking, laughing and giggling teenage girls could make, it would be like trying to sleep in an aviary with a cat on the loose.
I hadn't realised that Gwen had moved up to stand behind me until I felt her arm slip around my waist. "Don't worry my darling," she said comfortingly, suddenly she was my mother again, reassuring her son. "Emma has strict instructions to keep them all in her bedroom and the two spare rooms and to stay out of my room and yours." I think I was just standing there a bit dazed, "I shall be staying at Maggie's for the night... you could always stay there... "
"Yes, OK maybe I will."
"Then again you may be safer here with this lot than with Nikki...." She chuckled. Once again I was the only man amongst a gaggle of women and they all seemed to have the single purpose in life of teasing me or winding me up and I was powerless to stop them.
"Oh shit! I'm going out for the evening anyway.... I think I will just go back to work and sleep on the couch in the staff room at the garden centre, I've done it before."
By the time that Gwen and Maggie had left for the cinema and Emma and her friends had piled into their cars and taken off I just had time to shower and change before going to meet Joanna. I pulled on a clean pair of biscuit coloured chinos, a black shirt and my beige linen jacket, and then drove the Land Rover into town.
Joanna was waiting for me just inside the doors of the Berni Inn. I thought that she looked good she was wearing the same outfit that she had on earlier, a plum coloured mini skirt, with dark green opaque tights which matched the colour of her cotton cowl neck top. She always managed to look smart; she was short and very slim with small breasts, I thought that she had put on a little weight around the hips and buttocks but her legs were still fantastic, really shapely, one of her best features. She had changed her hair style and her dark brown hair was cut in a short page boy bob which actually suited her and made her look very mature.
"There were a lot of people waiting and so I have already added us to the table list, we should get seated very soon," she said after giving me a welcome hug. That was Joanna, always terribly efficient and organised; I guessed that it fitted well with her choice of law as a career.