Women on the Rebound
"I know my quality of life hasn't exactly been great, but I'm not suicidal." I stared at Kerry's car with exaggerated trepidation, as if waiting for it to fall apart before my very eyes. "Wouldn't it be better to take the bus?"
Kerry gently caressed the Volkswagen's rusted exterior, as if protecting it from my unjustified censure. "Appearance isn't everything. She's ten year's old, and still as reliable as ever."
"Well, I can only presume that she was designed to malfunction, then. In which case, you should have afforded her a masculine identity."
"God, you can be so fastidious at times." Kerry rolled her eyes amusedly. "You shouldn't be so quick to judge."
"Are you saying that I'm a snob?" I demanded indignantly, glaring at her in mock outrage.
Kerry regarded me innocently. "Well, you don't seem to be in any hurry to disprove me."
A mischievous smile played on the corners of my lips. "So I suppose you wouldn't be interested in taking Richard's Porsche for a test drive?" I nodded towards the garage door, inwardly praying that the keys were still locked in what my husband thought was his most inaccessible drawer.
Kerry's eyes widened. "Wouldn't he mind?"
"Of-course he'd mind. That's what makes it so much fun." I watched indecision and anticipation fight for sole possession of her features and, sensing that virtue was about to override instinct, I grabbed her hand before she had the chance to object. "Come on, every woman needs to indulge in a Thelma and Louise role play at some point in her life."
I led her back into the house, making a beeline for Richard's study. I regarded the well-stocked bookshelf wryly, knowing that it was yet another commodity of pretentiousness. Richard was virtually illiterate when it came to anything aside from numbers. Picking up an ageing hardback and gauging its lack of density, I smiled upon realising that my selective memory was still very much intact. Gingerly opening the would-be saga, I extracted the keys belonging to the top drawer of his tastefully-varnished bureau. Making swift work of retrieving my proverbial ticket to ride, I rattled the car keys triumphantly before throwing them in Kerry's direction. She caught them in an entirely reflexive action, but remained wide-eyed as I re-locked the drawer and returned the book to its rightful home. A ruthless smile graced my features as I surveyed her slack-jawed expression. "Don't look so surprised. He doesn't have an iota of trust in me, and I wouldn't want to disappoint him."
Kerry blinked, evidently fighting back the urge to laugh. "You're priceless, you know that?"
"So humour me." I nodded towards the driveway, visible through the double-glazed windows that stretched across the far wall of the office.
"I don't know, Alex. If he finds out..."
"He won't," I reassured her, with conviction. "He's two thousand miles away, and attached though he is to his beloved car, I don't think they've struck up a psychic connection as of yet. And if you can exercise some control over that wayward rust bucket of yours, then I don't think you're likely to write off an automatic."
"I think that's what they call 'tempting fate.'"
I rolled my eyes. "Maybe, if you're naive enough to value superstition over logic. What happened to your so-called sense of adventure, anyway?"
Kerry was visibly grinding her teeth. "Why are you so adept at making everything sound like a challenge?"
"I'm not. You just misconstrued my meaning, that's all. You've always got the option of walking away," I ventured innocently, with the sole intention of weakening her resolve.
She heaved a sign of exasperation. "I thought I'd stopped succumbing to peer pressure ten years ago," she muttered, storming out of the room and down the stairwell. Whilst mastering the house's intricate alarm system, I heard the gunning of one very powerful engine and, after locking the front door, waited for Kerry to reverse out of the garage. I'd never underestimated her capacity to be an extremely feisty woman, but I wasn't expecting to be used as a means of testing the Porsche's (thankfully) effective brake system. I tried desperately hard not to flinch as the beast of a car came to a screeching halt merely inches away from me, inwardly amused by Kerry's unrepentantly smug expression. Opening the passenger's door, I sank into the plush leather upholstery, donning a seat belt I somehow sensed would be invaluable during my descent into hedonism. Kerry was about to hit the accelerator, when I placed a restraining hand on her knee.
"Hang on a minute, you've got to see this." I gestured towards the solitary Volkswagen, grinning. "I'm sure your car just flicked you the finger. That's what you get for being so fickle."
"It was coercion, I'm sure she'll forgive me." Kerry giggled, caressing the steering wheel so sensuously that I found myself experiencing an entirely inappropriate pang of envy. "Oh yeah, I'm going to hate every minute of this," she added, none-too-convincingly.
bet you are." We shared a knowing smile, and leaning fractionally forwards,
I reached out to flick on the radio. An expression of delight graced my
features as I immediately recognised the highly appropriate song blaring
from the speakers. With matching grins, Kerry and I simultaneously embarked
upon a mission to exercise our vocal chords, the difference being that
I could carry a tune and she was chronically tone deaf. That was irrelevant
though, because we both fully appreciated the sentiment behind the lyrics:
"THORN IN MY SIDE, YOU KNOW THAT'S ALL YOU EVER WERE!" And then, laughing
so hard that it hurt, we sped off into the unknown. I somehow sensed that
I was going to enjoy my brief experience of life in the fast lane.
Having entered the formidable structure that was the local shopping centre at approximately half past ten, I had managed to memorise the contents of three relatively small stores by noon. How any woman could spend more than ten minutes surveying the offerings of one shop was beyond me; to have spent one and a half hours 'browsing' through a mere three was nauseating. I had tried my utmost to be amiable, and though it physically pained me to watch Kerry appreciatively fingering everything in sight (save me, of course) I had somehow managed to keep a vaguely interested smile welded to my features. By dinnertime, though, it was proving increasingly difficult to sustain. My feet were throbbing, my lower back was aching; basically, I was struggling to comes to terms with the revelation that shopping required stamina. Looking over at Kerry, who was still in the process of meticulously analysing an emerald dress (which, incidentally, we had stumbled across several minutes ago), I stifled an exasperated sigh. Escapism, it would seem, was not on the agenda. "Why don't you try it on?" I eventually asked, unable to take anymore.
Kerry regarded me hopefully. "Do you like it?"
I blinked, wondering why the hell she would seek the advice of someone whose wardrobe comprised solely of faded jeans, slacks and varying colours of T-shirts. "I'm hardly a connoisseur of fashion, Kerry."
"No, but I value your opinion."
Inwardly touched, I turned my attention towards the dress, and for the first time that morning, actually looked at something, as opposed to staring straight through it. "Yeah, it's really nice," I eventually concluded, sounding surprised enough to elicit a small smile from my companion. Hesitantly, I reached out to feel the material, moderately awed by its satiny softness.
"Maybe I need to invest in a new brand of detergent," I joked, and Kerry shook her head, laughing.
"No, you need to invest in some new clothes." On seeing my defensive expression - I was wearing a starched blouse and my smartest pair of jeans, which I had even dressed up with a gold belt for Kerry's benefit - she held up her hands in mock surrender. "Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with what you're wearing. You just don't seem to realise how beautiful you are. You'd look amazing in some of these dresses."
I shook my head vehemently, brushing aside the compliments without really heeding them. "No way, I don't do dresses in any way, shape or form."
"Would you at least try one on, for me?" Kerry regarded me beseechingly, and I could already see her eyes roving around in search of yet another vile garment to gush over.
"Look, I'm not being a Barbie doll for anyone," I protested, shuddering at the thought. There was no escaping my intrinsically feminine features, but the mannish clothes I persisted in wearing gave an element of androgyny to my appearance, something I wasn't willing to sacrifice.
Kerry seemed to be contemplating the merits of arguing with me. "I'll make a deal with you, OK? I'll pick out a dress for you to try on, whilst I see if this - " She gestured to the emerald dress which had proved worthy of my rare acclaim - "fits me, and I promise we'll go to lunch straight afterwards." Seeing my lack of approval, she hastily added, "and then I'll resign myself to doing whatever you want to do for the rest of this afternoon. What do you say?"
"No more shopping?" I ventured, the temptation proving almost too much to resist.
"No more shopping," Kerry affirmed, regarding me hopefully.
Faced with an extremely difficult conundrum, I sighed, trying to decide whether I'd rather sacrifice my dignity, or my sanity. Having experienced the repercussions of the latter, I winced, turning to face Kerry with a palpably pained expression, inwardly praying that she would show me an iota of compassion. My heart sank upon seeing that her eyes were dancing with amusement, rather than empathy. "All right," I hissed through clenched teeth and, seeing her triumphant grin, promptly sank onto a nearby chair, my slumped stance conveying to everyone just what I'd been reduced to.
"God, don't be so bloody melodramatic," Kerry admonished, taking my hand and leading me towards the back of the shop. "It's probably going to be impossible to find a dress that you won't look great in, which makes the process of elimination all the more difficult." She was teasing me now, and I placed my palms on her shoulders, feigning a strangling motion. For one disconcerting moment, she visibly tensed, and I quickly reverted to rubbing her back in a soothing motion. "Sorry," I whispered apologetically, inwardly rebuking my foolish behaviour.
"It's all right." She offered me a reassuring smile, lightly touching my forearm before advancing towards one of the most well-stocked rails in the shop, probably to frustrate me still further.
"Well, in that case, stop cooing over everything in sight and hurry the fuck up," I whined, once again slipping into my pre-pubescent mode. Kerry regarded me wryly, seizing a crimson gown from a nearby rack and thrusting it into my arms. "There, now go and try it on."
I studied it dubiously. "You just had to pick something with frills on it, didn't you?"
"Alex, you promised."
I was more than aware of how awkward I was being, and my moderate intelligence allowed me to discern that the sooner I subjected myself to the mindless degradation of donning the dress, the sooner I'd be liberated from the torture of shopping. Heaving a dejected sigh, I made my way towards the changing rooms, with Kerry following close behind me. We stepped into adjacent cubicles, and I hurriedly removed my clothes, kicking off my trusty Doc Martens in the process. Regarding the dress with palpable distaste, I carelessly climbed into it, nearly tripping over the hem in the process. Reaching behind me, pleased to find that I was still relatively nimble, I separated the numerous straps that formed the reverse of the garment, wincing as my muscles strained with the effort of trying to determine which arm went where. It was only after I'd achieved some semblance of order that I dared to glance in the full length mirror. Fortunately, I've never been butch enough to forgo the process of shaving, and I was surprised to see that my legs actually appeared quite shapely. I've always been relatively slender, but how I'd acquired a discreet amount of muscle tone was beyond me. Attributing the enhanced biceps to my favourite past time - battering any and every available pillow in a bid to alleviate my frustration, I critically assessed my appearance. The dress was relatively low cut, and the soft frills bordering the v-shaped neckline served to accentuate my ample cleavage. Turning around, I surveyed the thin straps criss-crossing over my tanned back. Even though they were largely obscured by the length of my hair, the effect was aesthetically pleasing, and the colour served to compliment my healthy tan. The rest of the ensemble left little to the imagination. The flimsy material hugged my slender physique in all the right places, and stopped around three inches short of my knees. All in all, the effect was that of a sophisticated slut, and I sighed, simply not willing to concede - even to myself - that this was probably the best I had ever looked.
"Alex, are you decent?" Kerry's muffled voice sounded from outside, and I thought I may as well muster a sultry smile to accompany the outfit.
"I'll let you be the judge of that."
Kerry tentatively drew back the curtain, emerald eyes widening as she took in the marked transformation. My ego would no doubt have been enhanced by the mixture of wonderment and unbridled lust characterising her features, had I not been captivated by the equally stunning vision before me. For possibly the first time in my life, I was speechless. My so-called sultry smile had reverted into an expression of slack-jawed appreciation, and I silently willed my heart to return to its natural rhythm. Shopping had taken on a whole new dimension, and one I wasn't remotely adverse to. Aware that several of the changing room's occupants were staring at us with an unhealthy interest, I dragged Kerry into my cubicle, pulling closed the curtain behind us. Of-course, the shoppers were rendered even more intrigued by my actions, but at least I didn't have to stand there and watch them gawk at our untimely ritual of mutual worship.
"You look gorgeous!" Kerry enthused, studying me reverently.
I tried desperately hard not to blush under her appraisal. "So do you. Please tell me you're going to buy that dress?"
Kerry grinned. "Well, I'd hate to go home empty-handed, but I'm not going to pander to your libido if you're not willing to return the favour."
I shook my head, grinning. "Come on Kerry, be reasonable. What's the point in paying a hundred bucks for something I'll probably never even glance at again?"
"Well, I'll just have to make sure that you put it to good use, won't I? How about I take you out to dinner tomorrow night?"
Tempted though I was, I regarded her apologetically. "You do realise that my grasp of etiquette is nothing short of reprehensible?"
Kerry gazed at me intently. "Only when you want it to be. As much as you try to deny it, Alex Harrison-Reider, you were raised to be a Lady, and I know that there are a perfectly functional set of manners lurking in there somewhere." She prodded my chest to emphasise her point.
"If you operate on the premise of me being on my best behaviour, disappointment is a virtual inevitability," I warned her, with a rueful smile.
Kerry shook her head, laughing. "You make it sound as if you have no control over your actions."
true. I'm still waiting to be diagnosed with an Attention Deficit Disorder.
All this antagonistic behaviour really isn't my fault." I grinned, and
Kerry's eyes roved skywards, accentuating her growing impatience. "All
right," I conceded, surprised to find myself enjoying the process of acquiescence,
"If it means putting a dent in Richard's bank balance, I'll buy the damn
thing." Sacrificing my personal code of conduct would once have left me
festering in insecurity, but as a beaming smile graced Kerry's features,
I found myself more than willing to throw caution to the wind. One thought
continued to predominate over the proceedings, though, and I turned pleading
eyes in my companion's direction. "Now, unless you want my advice on skimpy
underwear, can we please get out of here?"
To be continued....