After the shopping, Cass had stayed at home that weekend, she was looking forward to a quiet Sunday. Crappy TV, no booze, no excitement, just her and her PJs. She woke early to start the monthly tidy up. Roots and bush pruning. As she examined her hairline, she wondered cynically whether the ombre was just recessionista for ‘ can’t afford my colourist anymore.’ She smiled at the perversity of spending £300.00 to have her present hair. She slapped on the £7.00 hair dye and then started to inspect other details. She was sure that she had never had hair on her toes before her 30’s. Her little toe toupes waxed away, she started on the bush.
Cass refused to get rid of all the hair. She was a woman, not a porn star nor a child. Trimmed short and tidy at the edges was enough. It looked like a small rodent had drowned in the toilet. Wax strips on the side of the bath and various chemicals in bottles changing the colour of her washbasin. The reality of her beauty regime looked more like a crack den than a health spa. Washing hair dye out always reminded her of a scene from Psycho.
She was covered in face and hair mask, trying not to stick to her Economist, when her work phone rang. Since moving to Julian’s department, this was unusual. It was Julian, she answered.
“How are you?” said Julian jovially. There was a tension, which Cass could tell that his relaxed tone was false.
“Good,” said Cass looking in the mirror at a mud monster. “What’s up?”
“Oh I am fine, fine. I have a favour to ask, quite a big one,” the speed of his voice showed how nervous he was, “I wouldn’t normally ask you to do this, especially on your weekend, but you are closest and you understand me more than most.”
“What is it? It is only 8.00,” Cass asked slightly more exasperated than you should to your boss.
“A fax has come in from Moscow. I need you to get to the office and retrieve it.”
“Who, in their right mind, uses fax! Do we have a fax? Can’t they email it to you?”
“I would prefer if they did not contact me at all,” Julian sounded like a little boy. “But what they are sending won’t get through our computers’ security blocks”
“What is going on?” Cass said formidably.
“Oh you know how it is, ex girlfriends get upset, they do things. I can’t get to the office yet. I am at home. My Out-Laws are here. Wife’s birthday weekend. We are all going to Church and I won’t be able to get there and back in time. Dolores or anyone might see it. Please Cass, you are the only one who can help me. ” Julian had used this trick many times before. Make her feel important, like she is the only one. He usually got what he wanted.
“Okay, but just this once. Julian, I don’t like my private life mixing with my work life. This is not cool.”
“I know, and I am sorry. I tell you what. I will meet you in the afternoon and take you for tea,” Cass recognized Julian’s tone. It was the one he had used on Dolores, like a father arranging to make up for missing the play. Cass did not want to go for tea on a Sunday with her boss, but she was too confused to argue. “Brilliant! Call me as soon as you retrieve the fax and I will meet you at the office. You could get on with that Panin Report while you wait for me, he always wants to buy his property in a rush.” He rung off.
Cursing him, she quickly got ready and ran out the door, past her local crazy lady who liked to shout at her own reflection in shop windows and hopped onto a bus to the office.
Once in the office, she searched frantically for the fax machine and located it in a corner near a shredder box. As soon as she looked at the document, she realised why it was so important. It did not shock her that much, but it certainly wasn’t something you wanted in work. Her boss was trust up off the floor with a ball gag and a large butt plug. A leggy blonde in latex could be seen in the background. Across the picture was large loopy writing, “Give me what I want! Love You Oksana XXX”
Cass folded up the explicit missive and put it in her jeans pocket. She bitterly resented waiting for Julian, wondering why she was cursed at being a person who was rather swept into events rather than instigating the tsunami. She never asked for these things to happen.
She turned on her computer and started the Panin report. It was the normal purchase of an investment property, fucking over the population by taking one more glimmer of hope away from Millennials.
She knew she should feel angry but an unhappy resignation had crept into her soul. She thought of her own parents purchasing their wonderful little gite for a song in the South of France 15 years ago. She had been told that it was such a good investment. It was a shit hole, which was falling down. She stopped going about 5 years in to “the project”, fed up of being fly food and sleeping on a camp bed. Her Dad was sure he was going to do it up himself. Her father could not even put up shelves, let alone save an ancient cowshed.
Her parent’s wonderful investment contributed to the influx of young highly educated French doing menial labour in London. France had created its own problems through Baby Boomer selfishness but thanks to the free movement of people, the British wrinklies thoughtlessly messed up the property market of the French. Young French faced a perfect storm of no job security and no chance of purchasing a home, well before the Brits experienced.
Europe was becoming the British Middle Classes old peoples’ home, so it confused Cass why this age group was so pro UKIP. She turned off when she listened to them whinging hypocritically about their perma-children being out priced by the Russians or Chinese. Had it ever occurred to them, that they might not need two four bedroom properties for two people? Or that they might need change in their locality, so that, god forbid, some new council houses could be built?
Julian poked his head around the door, smilingly at her sheepishly, “You got it?”
Cass did not look up from her computer but held out the document for his inspection. “Oh, well I can not thank you enough for getting this for me,” he said ashamed. He slunk off to his office. Cass could here him talking to a person, who she presumed from the shouting, was Oksana.
Cass would never understand why she did what happened next. She knew she wanted to stop the shouting. Stop this ridiculous drama. She walked into Julian’s room and asked loudly if this was Oksana. He nodded. Holding out her hand she asked, “Can I speak to her?” Cass’ tone was more of an order than a request. Julian passed her the telephone.
Cass’ Russian was imperfect, as she had only really learnt bits from her extended family. In Cass’ mind she said, ”Hello Oksana, I am Julian’s wife, Rebecca. I know about you and I do not care about what you and my husband do, but the blackmail and embarrassment has to stop. I am good friends with Kubov, who will make your life very difficult if you carry on.”
What Cass had actually said translated to,” Hiya Oksana. Me, Rebecca Julian’s wife. You know me, I know you. I don’t care for you. Blackmail stop. My friend is Kubov, which is very bad for you.”
Oksana’s reply to Cass’ wonderful speech was a sharp intake of breath and the telephone rang off.
“You are magnificent! But you need to practice your Russian.” Julian laughed delightedly. “ Who is Kubov?”
“No one, just a name,” Cass lied. Ivana had told her to use the name of Anastasia’s father if she was ever in trouble with Russians. High flyers in St Petersburg’s FSB, seem to be known by to everyone, even little whores.
“Well I am taking you for lunch. Shopping first though, my treat, you deserve it after all the money you have saved me. You can’t go were we are going look like you have just come from a gig in Camden,” he beamed at her like an eccentric uncle. “I hate trainers on a woman or on a man for that matter.”
Cass tried to protest, wondering what the real Rebecca would think and wasn’t it her birthday. “She will be fine, she has lots of people there to keep her company and we are off to Anguilla next week so I will make it up then. She thinks I am working. Come on off we go.” He pulled her towards the exit and into a cab.
They chatted in the cab and got out at Liberty of London. This was one of Cass’ favourite places in the world. The smell of the lilies, pine and the wood polish, the arts and crafts in every detailing, the maze of the floors and treasures of every shape and kind, made her feel like a small child again. She had only ever been able to afford a tub of hand crème and a couple of candles but they were from Liberty and just going in there was a treat enough.
Julian appeared to be more into women’s clothes than Cass. He kept coming up to her, “What about this one, or this one. Look at the detailing on this one! It would really compliment your skin tone.”
Cass settled on a simple shift dress in black jacquard silk, paired with a pair of cream Gianvito Rossi heels. She preferred the winged Sophia Webster heels but she was not going to push it.
“I love women’s fashion and women for that matter. You look so much more elegant now,” Julian said as he ushered Cass into the cab. Cass always thought that men who claimed their devotion to women in general, did not really think women were real.
They pulled up in St James and went to Julian’s club. She had been to one or two before, but whichever one she mentioned to him was “so naff”, she stopped trying to relate to him.
This club was a time warp. Shining Oxford shoes and pin strip suited legs, protruding from enormous chesterfields club chairs. The top half of the chair tented in the Sunday Times or Telegraph. The printed shelters moved rhythmically up and down to the midmorning doze of their inhabitants.
An older gentleman looked up, eying Cass, “Your niece, again, Jules?”
“An associate I am mentoring,” said Julian.
“Oh that is what they call it now a days. Send my love to Rebecca.”
“Will do Cuthbert,” smiled Julian. “Send my best to Miguel too.” Cuthbert sneered, shook his protective paper and returned to the arms of Morpheus.
“Nice man,” Cass said as they sat down. “What was his problem?”
“Ancient closet homo who likes to pass judgment on others, because he can’t accept himself,” signed Julian looking at the menu. “I would not normally rise to him, but he was being rude to you.”
They chose their lunch, which turned out to be an overpriced school dinner with a jus instead of gravy. Julian drank red and Cass drank white. Both drank a lot.
They had a lot in common, but whatever Cass had done, he had done it better. He had gone to a minor public school but his precocious talents meant that he went to University early. Mastering at Oxford at 21. Originally an accountant, he went into law because he found it more interesting. He had worked in the BVI and in Hong Kong but settled in London, because his mother was widowed. He was in the right place at the right time for the fall of the USSR. The Wild East was exciting and a lot of people wanted his expertise. He built up his business and then was headhunted by the firm. He agreed to part amalgamation, but he had a bigger profit share.
He did not have children, “They all swim the wrong way,” he laughed candidly. “Probably a good thing but Rebecca and I would have liked children.”
“Dolores says that Rebecca is a lovely woman,” Cass was interested in this odd marriage.
“She is a saint, that is the problem,” he said darkly. Cass motioned with her napkin to the sides of her mouth. He took the hint that the red wine was giving him a joker’s smile. “She has a temper though, she does not let me get away with everything. Godly wrath.”
“It is probably, why you are still together,” smiled Cass. “It kind of reflects your peccadillo. “
“Are you a dom?” he asked directly.
“No sub,” she answered. “Always have been.”
“Shame,” he smiled wickedly at her. “Do you know why?”
“I think it is the same for any sub. Control. I am so controlled in my everyday life, so regimented, I need to have a release. Someone else taking control. Some people have drink and drugs. I just prefer a good spank,” she said frankly.
“What a well adjusted way of looking at it,” Julian’s tone was slightly supercilious. Then he looked sadly into his wineglass, “I have always thought it was an illness.”
“It is not ruling my life and it is not destructive, so I am not too worried about it,” Cass said slightly defensively.
He looked at his watch and shutdown, “Hmmm. I have to go back to the office. I will get you a cab. Take tomorrow off, you have earnt it.”