Eden Baylee and I are having lots of fun co-writing our 800-word stories. We hope you like them, too. It’s interesting what the prompts – both ‘ordinary’ and ‘bizarre’ – trigger in us as individuals and when each of us is just picking up the threads of the other’s story.
This month’s prompt was: ‘We were drinking champagne and losing our shirts.’
It seems that, in the UK, those final three words refer to betting losses while elsewhere, they can be more… er … raunchy.
Parts 1 and 3 were from Eden and 2 and 4 were mine.
Behind Every Great Man
Bubbly does it to me. With just one glass, I’m inebriated. My husband’s off with the bigwigs who’ve flown in from Hong Kong. I make myself useful at the food station. No one in the room looks familiar, and it’s just as well. I’m relieved to not have to make small talk.
A young man in a chef’s hat stands behind the table of appetizers. “Can I offer you something?”
“Please.” I hold out my plate. “I’ll have one of everything!”
“Let me see how much I can fit on here,” he says without missing a beat. “They should give you bigger plates.” He positions a skewer of shrimp and pineapple in the middle, then adds a stuffed mushroom cap and a couple of meatballs beside it. A quick scan of the table later, he picks up a Chinese soup spoon filled with a brown substance. It’s delicately topped with pomegranate seeds.
“Foie gras. It’s my favourite hors d’oeuvre here.”
“Then I must try it.”
“Yes, it’s sublime.” He adds one more item to my plate—a giant scallop wrapped in bacon.
“Now that I recognize! Who doesn’t like bacon, right?”
He smiles shyly. “I hope you enjoy.”
In the early days, when my husband was beginning to climb the ladder, I was restrained, even genteel (or at least my version of it). I wore neat jackets over necklines just low enough to suggest I might be available but not without some skilful preparatory schmoozing. I always kept my voice low and, apparently, interested, despite being better-versed in the business chat than the posturing suits that pigeon-holed me at all too frequent marketing events.
As I smile back at the young man and raise my glass to him, his shifting gaze confirms that enough is now on show to allow any schmoozing to be relatively perfunctory. However, what he doesn’t know is that, tonight, my aim is considerably higher than someone holding a bacon-wrapped scallop.
Oh no, my target is Dennis, the bald, middle-aged financial director who’s just arrived and who’s about to relocate back to London from Hong Kong. I’d met him over there only once, at the Happy Valley Racetrack where he’d basically chatted away to my breasts. He’s in London to oversee some small tech company takeovers and will need a local go-between, someone, in fact, like my dear, sweet and, fortunately, unsuspecting husband.
“Eleanor, I was hoping to see you again!” Dennis wraps an arm around my waist and pulls me into him. My breasts flatten against his tailored suit. We air kiss in that pretentious way that only the English can.
“Dennis, fancy seeing you again.” I sound a squeaky octave higher than normal.
“You haven’t forgotten, have you Ellie?” He leans in to whisper in my ear. “You were so … naughty,” he says, looking around the room. “I suppose your husband is meeting with Mr. Chang and his team.”
I smile but remain quiet long enough to create an uncomfortable air of silence. Last time we met, we were drinking champagne and losing our shirts. Now, I make a point of sipping my drink cautiously. Before Dennis speaks again, I pick up both meatballs off my plate and pop them in my mouth at the same time, positioning one in each cheek before chewing and swallowing them. “What’s that you say … about me being naughty?”
Dennis wipes the sweat trickling down his brow. He turns his head from left to right as if looking for someone. “Ellie, you are too—”
“Perhaps we should step outside. It’s suddenly very warm in here.”
As I knew he would, he jumped at the chance. The liberties I’d allowed him at that racetrack and which he now characterised as ‘naughty’ had, in fact, progressed through indiscreet and daring to unwise, evil, and eventually for him, life-threatening. But the hungers of rich, powerful, terminally unattractive men of his sort were easily satisfied and by the time, with his greedy fingers kneading my bum as we walked, we’d made our way to the summer house and total separation from all the other guests, the mere words I’d been using to recall those long ago frolics already had him slobberingly incoherent. He was literally salivating as he tugged at the zip of my dress. Over his shoulder, through the glass of the summerhouse, I saw the gorgeous young man in the chef’s hat carrying a tray of food to guests at a table on the lawn and briefly wished he, instead of the pawing Dennis, had the status to help me improve my husband’s career path. It would have been so much more fun. But the sight of him reminded me that what I was doing was, after all, a charitable act, so I succumbed.
And Dennis survived.