I went a bit Alias - Sydney forgetting two years of her life Alias - but then I remembered that we're now in the season of lurve! The endlessness of January is over and we're starting to plan the wonder of Valentine's Day. As a romance writer - alright, alright, erotic romance writer, this really should be my favourite time of year. (bugger off blogger, that's the right way to spell favourite). And amidst the booze and the shots and the champagne and the rolling around in rose petals and finding them in funny places the next day and the "we're not in the same time zone let alone the same city so let me send you some naughty photos" and the, "I actually do like you as a person and not just an appendage attached to a body..." Love, a rekindling, reawakening, renewed love may bloom. So for your entree, a mature romance. Again. I know...
Betty Tinted Glasses © Billy London
Betty adjusted the glass case of the cake stand she held, so the design on both items aligned perfectly. All this nervousness over a cake. For her next door neighbour. Her wonderful, terribly sweet next door neighbour. He’d only moved in last year bringing with him suave and sophistication and a frisson of excitement through the neighbourhood. Smith took one look at Dom and announced, “He dyes his hair.”
Betty thought it utterly bitchy of her husband to comment on another man’s well groomed looks.
Dom opened the door, black hair damp and a towel around his shoulders. “Hello Betty!”
“Oh I’m sorry,” she gabbled her words as the very masculine scent of sweat washed over her. It nearly made her drop the cake. “I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
“Don’t be silly. I was just practising for the competition. Come in. Come in.”
He stepped to the side and allowed her into his home. It was almost a mirror of her own house, but Dom’s hallway was filled with trophies he’d won over the years for his ballroom dancing. Betty’s hallway was scattered with Smith’s various shoes, golf bags and the walls were scuffed with his irons. Bloody husband.
“Come through.” Dom led her through the kitchen to a glass conservatory, the setting for an autumnal garden party last year. All the neighbourhood strays had meowed and whined around him, hankering for his attention. Betty worked the old school method. Sugar.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” He asked. “If that cake is for me, it’ll go nicely.”
“Of course it’s for you!” She handed it to him a coffee mousse cake, a recipe she’d found in a Sunday paper and practiced on her husband who had never in the forty years they’d been married enjoyed a cup of coffee. Dom deserved only the best. He lifted the casing and inhaled.
“That smells delicious, Betty. Every time you bring something over it really is your best.”
Blushing, Betty tweaked a silver streaked curl at the back of her head. “Thank you.”
“How’s Smith?” He called from the kitchen. Betty barely stopped herself from rolling her eyes. Smith had no ambition, no hunger for anything since he retired from his job with the telephone company. Instead he golfed, painted, went horse riding, infuriating Betty daily. Horse riding? At his age? With his hip? The man had lost his marbles. She thought they’d be on cruises, holidays, looking into a holiday home abroad. Maybe nearer their son and grandchildren who lived in France. Smith was going through a second childhood. “He’s fine,” Betty dismissed. “What about you?”
“Working on the championships...” He walked back to the conservatory chairs with a tray of cups and a teapot. “Here we are. The doorbell just went. Dig in and don’t wait.”
He disappeared and Betty made herself busy, cutting generous slices of cake. Good work, she thought. Dom was all hers for at least an hour or two. She glanced up and saw Fiona Gould from number 48 sauntering in, carrying in a large bouquet of flowers. “Oh,” she said, her tone conveying her disappointment upon seeing Betty sitting there. “Hello Betty.”
Dom edged Fiona into a chair, taking the flowers from her hands and placing them in the kitchen sink. “Betty brought some delicious cake. I’ll bring another plate and cup.”
No! Betty wanted to scream. It’s meant to be the two of us! Fiona sat down, flicking immaculately coiffured hair over her shoulder. In the silence the two women examined each other with barely concealed dislike. “How is Smith?”
It was bad enough Fiona had spent most of the Carmichaels time on this street flirting abominably with Smith, but to muscle in on Betty’s tenuous relationship with Divine Dom was too much. “He’s keeping himself busy.”
“For a man turning seventy in a few years, he is looking very trim. Very well looked after.” Fiona picked up the plate of cake and delicately forked it between ruby red lips. “Yummy. You should sell this. Some women are made to feed men.”
Betty could have clawed her overly made up eyes out. Dom returned with a cup for Fiona.
“Cappuccino!” Before he could open his mouth the doorbell rang again. “It’s like Kings Cross station today! Excuse me ladies.”
Betty heard the voice long before the person appeared. Camille Passey was too loud, too brash and exposed her crepe-like bosom to all and sundry too often. Smith said to Betty it was probably the way she’d held people’s attention in the past and she’d never change.
“Betty!” She cried. “I just dropped Smith off from the country club. He looks so well! Obviously enjoying the highlife. Cake? My goodness that’ll go straight to my hips. You’re lucky you don’t have to worry about your weight Betty. Smith loves you just as you are, never mind how many young women want to seek his golfing advice!”
What? Women, young women showing interest in her husband? Jealousy bloomed in her generous bosom. No. Not today. Smith was her stable. The one surety in her life, even more than the bond she’d been given for her fifth birthday. The man was to her what the crows were to the Tower of London. Dom sat down and grinned between all three women. “Isn’t this cosy?”
Betty got to her feet. Looking at Dom she could see his hair was coloured and the dye had tinted his ears. With cake in the corner of his mouth and the street tarts all over him, she had never more wanted to hear her husband’s grisly voice. More accurately, she wanted to hear him explain what he was doing messing around with girls young enough to be his daughter. Or worse, granddaughter.
“I’ve got to go.”
Dom made a moue with his mouth. His lips disappeared into his face. Goodness, the scales truly had fallen from her eyes. He was bloody old. What on earth had she wasted her time on? “Are you sure? You’ve barely touched your food.”
“Don’t worry yourself. I better check on the ball and chain. See you.”
Hurrying home, she called her husband’s name as soon as she closed the door. Peeking into the living room she saw Smith had set up a picnic spread on their coffee table. The over baked coffee cake sat in crumbles on their wedding china, along with a beaded bottle of Dom Perignon. The irony, she thought. And he’d made such an effort. Poor Smith, he didn’t deserve a flaky eye wandering minx for a wife.
“Finished flirting with Dom?” He asked next to her. She yelped.
“Don’t do that! You know I’ve got a weak heart!”
“And yet you keep baking.” He teased, flashing the dimple in his left cheek. “You think all that sugar and lard is good for you?”
All guilt for being flaky dissolved in irritation. “You still stuff your face with it.”
“Come in here, you moody mare. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
He took her by the hand and sat her down. With a flourish, he popped open the champagne, his eyes twinkling with the same mischief that had been in his eyes when he’d chatted her up at the pub two miles from their house, forty two years ago. “Why’d you come running home, Bet?”
“Your friend Camille drove you back from the club.” She could hardly keep the irritation out of her voice. It made Smith chuckle.
“What else made you come running over here?” He handed her a flute of champagne. “You never miss an opportunity to slather over Dom the Dye Job.”
Betty giggled, “That’s really unpleasant, Smithy. Just because you’re grey.”
“Silver fox, m’darling.” He poured himself a glass and rested the bottle back in the ice bucket, taking a seat next to her. It wasn’t as if she’d tried anything with Dom the Dye Job, but the guilt in comparing the two men was still lingered. “Don’t make that face. You didn’t do anything.”
“So certain,” she teased, hiding behind her glass of champagne.
“He’s still got legs, hasn’t he?” Smith asked mildly. His face flittered with emotion and he curved a hand around her knee. “I know you’re restless, Bet. And I haven’t helped. But this is for you. For us. Me really, I just want you to come along and get your boobs a tan line.”
He handed her a red envelope and Betty took it from him warily. Opening it, a squeal escaped her throat. The crafty beggar had bought a three week Caribbean cruise for the two of them. Oh god, the guilt was going to last a lifetime. Every time she saw blue waters and white sand, she’d feel that wrench of guilt for making cake for the bloke next door. “Then,” Smith added, “we can visit George in France for a bit.”
Sobbing, she threw her arms around Smith’s shoulders. Betty had a wonderful husband. A silver haired fox who was, despite her butter-laden cooking, looking very trim. “Just a minute,” she lifted her head and stared at him. “Who have you been flirting with?”
Smith blinked. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“You must have to let this go so easily.”
“Not at all. We’ve got bigger fish to fry. And let’s be honest, Bet, that div next door couldn’t handle you.”
She wiped away tears of laughter. Her husband the comedian. “I remember a Smith who barely escaped an assault charge after a man made a comment about my bottom.”
Smith pressed his mouth to her neck lingeringly. “I don’t fancy prison at my age. I’d rather take you away and make you remember why we’ve been married for forty years.”
Ooh, Betty thought as his mouth moved lower. Good point.