Being Inspired, maybe - 82

A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, then, the words:

On the way back to the hotel, the same as where both Madeleine and I were staying, I had time to think about why Suzanne had decided to make an appearance now.

I didn't think it had anything to do with Madeleine because I didn't perceive Suzanne as being the jealous sort, and it was not as if we had been caught schmoozing in a corner of the hotel lobby, or anything like that.  But it did raise the question, had Suzanne been keeping some sort of surveillance on us?

That would be, well, creepy, wouldn't it?

"Any ideas on where we might have dinner?"

Her voice float across the void that was between us in the car, so wide four people could be seated comfortably, breaking my thoughts.

I looked ever at her.  She had a mischievous expression which I'd seen before and was a prelude to trouble.  She was a girl with too much money and far too much time on her hands.

It wasn't the first time I'd thought about what it might be like being her boyfriend or husband.  She was fiercely independent, and not the sort of girl who could be told anything.  Even her parents had trouble reeling her in at times.

But at least she was not the ultimate brat, but she came very close.  It forced a momentary comparison to Madeleine.  Madeleine was as rich, not so independent, with none of the attitude.  Dare I admit it, she was more of a suitable match for me.

Could I say then I liked Madeleine more than Suzanne?  I think, in the time I'd spent with her I was beginning to like her a lot more.  Perhaps I should not say that directly to Suzanne.

"There's a Chinese restaurant at the hotel.  I've been keen to have a taste of the local version of Chinese."

"Peking duck is Peking duck no matter where you go."

It confirmed another theory I had, and that was she lacked the refined tastes of different cuisines, in different countries.  I'd tried six different versions of the duck and all were amazing."

"I was thinking more along the lines of roasted goose."

"Pheasant, goose. Quail, pigeon, whatever."

I wonder if I took her to Sydney in Australia or Queenstown in New Zealand for a meat pie and chips it would change her mind.  I was rather partial to a meat pie.

And come to think of it, cod and chips from a greasy fish and chips shot in Bishopsgate wouldn't go astray either.  Sadly, I had the refined tastes when it suited me, but I was happier mucking in with the working classes.

"Then I'm sure you have somewhere in mind?"

"The Felix got great views they say, and a cocktail bar.  Perhaps they'll do a steak, haven't had a decent one in a while."

Felix it was.  I was not sure why she asked me if she had a place already picked out, but perhaps it was a test.

A test I failed.

The car arrived at the hotel and the concierge at the do it was there to make sure we didn't have to open the door.  Another opened the door for us, dressed in an immaculate white uniform.

I slipped both of them some cash. I doubt Suzanne would have given it a thought and got a nod in return.  I'd already established a rapport with both the concierge and housekeeping to ensure everything ran smoothly.  Those people worked hard and deserved it

Stopping to attend to the staff held me up for a minute it's or so, and she had strode ahead not waiting for me, and by the time I reached the elevator lobby, she was stepping into the elevator.  I think I was supposed to join her, but I didn't.

The frown on her face as the doors closed told me I'd just earned a black mark.

I don't think I really cared.

I went up to my room and brought out a bottle of single malt that I'd bought duty-free at the airport on the way in.  I was not sure whether it saved me much but wasn't the point.  It would a lot less than ordering it in-room service.

I was halfway through the second glass when the phone rang.

It could only be one person.  Suzanne.

"What happened to you?"  Very close to abrupt.  I could see how some people I knew didn't like her.
"Greasing the wheels.  You could have waited."

I tried not to sound petulant.

"I thought you were right behind me."

Never assume, I thought. The other thought, it had taken nearly half an hour to call me.  Since I had no answer for that, I let the silence linger.  To be honest, I didn't really feel like going to dinner with her, because she was not quite the best of dining companions.

I'd been to several dinners, and she was lucky and critical, and she was not backward in treating restaurant staff with less than the respect they deserved.  It was probably the difference between us, her family had made their fortune through inheritance, whereas we had been poor, to begin with, and created our fortune by sheer hard work.

It was one of the reasons why their family was so interested in a joint venture with ours, not only in business but in a more permanent relationship.  That was her parent’s idea, I was never quite sure it was hers.

"I think we need to have a talk," she said when the silence was almost too long.

I thought that too and invited her down to my room.  It would be too intimidating in her suite.
She arrived on my doorstep 15 minutes later, a room service person in tow with a trolley that had snacks, food, and two bottles of champagne.  Dinner apparently was being served in my room.

I waited until the food had been set up on the dining table, then tipped the waitress and she left, leaving us alone.

She sat in one of the two very comfortable leather chairs.  I opened the champagne without the usual flourish and poured her a glass. 

I stuck to my scotch and preferred to remain standing leaning against the cupboard near the bar fridge.

There was a serious look on her face.  I was going to ask her what was wrong, but she started with, "We need to have a frank discussion on what is being expected of us."

"I have no expectations.  I thought we were supposed to be having fun without all the hang-ups of a proper relationship."

"It seems that's not going to cut it.  My parents want to know where this is going.  I told them we're still exploring the possibility.  They were fine with that in the beginning but it's been six months.  They now want something more definitive."

"Like a wedding date?"

"Or an indication that there is some form.of commitment."

My parents would be happy if we announced a date, not so much that it might make me happy, but that the connection to old money would make their position in society more legitimate. I was well aware of the disdain old money had for the brash and mannerless new money.

"What do you want?"

"I learned a long time ago it was never about what I want.  But within these walls, I dont like the idea of marrying for financial advantage, not that it's clear who is getting any advantage.  Business should be business without involving the children."

"I sense a but here."

"But you're one of the few men I like being with.  Most of them are wimps, you don't back away."

"You're not exactly easy to get along with."

"It would certainly make an interesting relationship."

There's still a but somewhere in this, so I refilled her glass, and a top-up in mine, and went back to my position by the minibar.

But before anything more could be said, my cell phone vibrated on the bench behind me.

I picked it up and looked at the screen.  A new message.

"Check GPS of my phone, and come and get me.  Now!"


"A problem?"

"Madeleine.  I think she's in trouble."

© Charles Heath 2019


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