Cass had tried to order mineral water. She really had. But there was a bottle of chilled champagne put in front of her. She wished to God she had some will power, but it would have been rude not to at least have one small glass.
She listened to Julian and Ivanna wax lyrical about Moscow. “I remember blah blah blah restaurant.” “Yes it is very good the XYZ is fantastic.” “Is Yevgeny still running it?” Cass sunk further into the bottle of champagne and then another arrived. Ivanna’s piercing blue eyes soften at the mild flirtation from Julian. Cass thought it best not to interrupt.
Cass looked around at the others in the restaurant. Contrary to popular belief, the City is not full of self-satisfied coke-fueled arseholes. Yes, some of them are coke-fueled but they get culled pretty quickly. Most of the toilet talc is sniffed by the Essex post boys trying hard to fit into the City.
The Real Players are the ones you ignored at school. The ones who would sit there doing extra maths when normal teenagers would be desperately finding someone to grope.
The trouble with the Real Players’ arrested development is it leads to a lifetime of insecurity. They have a feeling of not ever being quite good enough. Working the macho hours because they were too weedy for the team at school. Getting the beautiful girlfriend(s) because they were always ignored by Lisa Blair in Year 10, who is fat now with two kids. Lucky miss there, boys. The minor difficulty of not knowing how to talk to the beautiful girlfriend can be overcome with a trip to Selfridges or a mini break to New York or a Ferrari. Just as long as they keep on bringing in that filthy lucre, the Real Players are just fine. Insecure, lonely and unhappy but fine.
Cass watches a tubby Player push a salad around his plate as he watches his skeletal friend plunge into entrecôte et pommes frites. She felt the Tubster’s pain.
Cass left the late fifty something flirtation at around 17.30. She wobbled back through the City to her office, narrowly avoiding death by homicidal bike courier speeding over a pedestrian crossing.
Ignoring Dolores’ distain, Cass changed into her trainers and walked home.
There was a package there to greet her on her return. Similar but heavier than to the previous one from Sabina, which had arrived a few weeks earlier. Cass placed it on the table and went for a her post work cigarette on her balcony. The nicotine injection and her lunchtime indulgence got the better of her. She completely forgot about the package as she curled up in a champagne haze on her sofa.
Her phone woke her up.
“So are you coming?” asked a matter of a fact voice, she was sure she recognised.
“What, where, who is this?”
“Don’t you look at your phone before answering. Why are you sleeping at 7.30 on Monday night?”
She looked at her phone, “Luke, why are you calling me?”
“Did you get your invite?” he pressed urgently.
“I don’t know,” she was confused and foggy. She was also pretty sure she had indigestion on a volcanic scale.
“Are you alright?” Luke sounded uncharacteristically anxious. He was thinking, not again, don’t panic, not again. She is all right now.
“Fine, boozy lunch that is all.”
He was relieved and laughed snidely, “Who would have thought property law could be so glamourous.”
“Hey, we might be the bores of the bunch but at least we don’t have to tart round chambers looking for briefs!”
“Touche, you should have been a barrister.”
“I like what I do,” Cass defended herself.
“So are you coming? You got the invite,” pressed Luke.
“I don’t know. There is a box or something on my table.”
“Are you sure you are a girl? All the women I know would have ripped it open as soon as they saw a package. Open it . Open it now!” insisted Luke.
“Are you sure you are not a girl?”
“You know damn well I am not,” Luke cackled down the phone.
“Okay I have opened it. It is another lovely box. I have opened the box. There is tissue paper and a card.” Cass paused, “Is this some sort of package porn for you?”
“Don’t stop,” moaned Luke playfully.
“Sicko.” Cass read the card which specified a very chic but to remain nameless Knightsbridge’s hotel, a date and time. “I am assuming you received the same invitation. I am now ripping the tissue paper.”
“Oh that is it, nice and slow,” sighed Luke.
“If you carry on like this, I am hanging up!”
“Such a tease. Okay I will be good.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Cass flatly.
“Oh what? Come on tell me!” pleaded Luke.
“I am not too sure what it is. It looks like lots of fine long chains. Like necklaces.” She took it carefully out of the box and held it up. It was heavy and swooshed down to the floor. It was a Grecian-collared Dress made up entirely of straight fine chains. Underneath there was a silver leather belt with built in cuffs. “Look I have got to go. Yes, I am coming to the party.” She hung up.
Cass undressed hurriedly and tried on the dress. The chains caressed every curve of her body, her nipples peaking through the gaps in the chains. Her tiny waist accentuated by the band of silvery leather. She enjoyed the weight and the coldness of the dress. She looked like a Goddess in it.
She realised that she had been rude to Luke, hanging up on him. She found her highest heels and took one picture of her beautiful leg extended with the chains cascading down over her thigh like a silvery waterfall.
She sent the picture to him. She texted “What do you think?”
He responded, “Fuckable! I’ll pick you up. C u Saturday.”