Weekend at Badger's Lodge
Brandy and Ginger with Whisky Chocolates
"How did the speed dating go?" Poppy stamped price tickets on boxes of chocolates, stacking them neatly on the shelf marked 'special offers' waiting for Janey's reply.
"Mmm, not a total disaster nor life changing either – there was someone I might be seeing again though."
"Janey Dobson, sly minx – might see again?"
Wide eyed now with hands on hips Poppy didn’t seem ready to let the subject of Janey's date drop. "Was he mean and moody? The Daniel Craig type?"
"No," Janey laughed. “You watch too many films, he was just, you know …."
Polly gave a satisfied smile.
"See, I told you it was worth a try, it's not as if you're a spring chicken any more, I worry about you, on your own all the time. I'd love to see you finding a nice man."
Janey turned as the tinkling of the shop bell broke the conversation leaving her sighing with relief.
Karen Dixon struggled with her buggy and shopping bags, letting the door bang behind her.
"Hey Karen, how's things with you?"
Often customers popped into 'Sweet Things' for a chat and a bit of a moan. Janey and Poppy were always there to listen and give sound advice. Mr Lacenby left them in charge. He trusted them both, and he always stressed upon them how important it was that they found time to talk to regulars and new customers alike. Karen heaved a weary sigh, and plonked herself onto the nearby stool that was kept for just that purpose. She seemed glad of a respite most likely from trekking round the shops by the look of all her bags.
"I'm really missing our Jack,” she said. ”We're counting off the days on our wall chart, putting coloured stars to show when he comes home. It's supposed to be for the kids, I'm helping them of course. They miss him as well. It's hard on your own. Not that I'm on my own, I've got Jack, he writes all the time."
"Aww, it's lovely, you keeping in touch, are you allowed to Facebook him and text, stuff like that?" Poppy said.
"No, not really, we write though."
Janey frowned, she wished Poppy wouldn't bombard Karen with so many questions. Why couldn't she listen, just for once, that would be an impossible ask. Poppy continued chatting. "And that choir you've been singing with, it's brilliant, hey, he won't half be proud when he hears you've made the charts."
"Yeah, hope so. Anyway how are things with you two?"
"Well, Janey has some news on the romantic front haven't you dearie?" Polly folded her arms with a smug grin, clearly bursting to tell Karen. Janey knew she couldn't keep the secret for long, not that there was a secret, but she would have liked to keep the news to herself, at least until she knew if it was going anywhere.
"Been speed dating, down at the legion, turned out better than she thought. Go on." She was nodding, not giving Janey an inch to change the subject.
Janey spoke gingerly. "Yes, it was okay. I'm seeing Forester again."
"Forester? That name sounds familiar; didn't you have a boyfriend in the last year at school with that name? You don't mean Forester Baxter do you? His mum delivers meals on wheels." Janey felt herself blushing; she'd been practically pushed into the speed dating by Poppy's constant nagging: as if being thirty-something and not attached was a cardinal sin!
"Think I did go out with him, you're right," muttered Janey.
Karen rocked the buggy backwards and forwards, hushing the grizzling twins.
"Oh, that's lovely. You and he still single, shows something then." She stood back quietly. Poppy repeated dreamily, "Ahh yeah, shows something."
Janey picked up a box of whiskey liquors desperate to change the subject.
"You two, what are you like? It's just a couple of old friends meeting up for a drink. Think he'd like a box of these? I know he drinks whiskey, or he used to." Poppy and Karen were smiling and nodding knowingly at each other.
"He's suggested an Easter weekend break, only one night. We're both tied up with family commitments over the Christmas and New Year, it'd be a change." Janey picked up a duster, and carried on with her work.
"Well -- hellooo; weekend break – as in sleep-over-night?" Poppy was blinking, those long eyelashes, neck extended like an interested giraffe who had just spotted a lush green bamboo. The sight had Janey giggling.
"I know, me, weekend break, do you think I should?"
"I would! Where did he suggest?"
"Stratford, Warwick, the Cotswolds maybe, I'm thinking it over, I need to let him know by the weekend."
"I'd jump at the chance of a weekend alone with my Jack," Karen sighed. “Well, I'll be off, thanks for the chat ladies, don't know what I'd do without you two to have a chin wag with. Give us a box of jelly babies Poppy." She nodded to where little Lydia and Lyndon's favourite sweets stood tidily on the shelf. No, better make it two boxes, they'll only squabble otherwise.
After Karen had gone, Poppy made two cups of earl grey tea. As they relaxed into the afternoon break, she gave Janey a gentle nudge.
"Hey, I'm pleased for you, honestly I am. Time you found someone."
"Thanks. I'll keep you informed."
"You'd better. Hey, and don't forget who's idea the speed dating was. If there's going to be any wedding bells, I'm first up for chiefy."
"What!" Janey couldn't believe the ideas Poppy came up with at times.
"Y'know, chief bridesmaid, that'll be me."
Janey took a deep breath as she entered the lounge of Badger's Lodge in the middle of the Warwickshire town. They'd spoken on the phone, exchanged texts and now she was meeting up with him again. It was her idea to have a taxi. She wanted to arrive separately. It somehow wouldn't have felt right sitting next to him in his car, she was after all, an independent woman. This was a huge deal, meeting someone wasn't something she did. She felt better arriving alone, then it gave them chance to get to know each other better. Heart thumping, she spotted him first, sitting at a low table, brushing a stray hair off his jacket. He looked quite relaxed. So handsome, she hoped he approved of her swirling knee length black velvet skirt, lacy tights with aubergine fluffy low cut top. It had been so long since she'd bothered to dress with a man in mind. If she was utterly truthful, he was the only man she wanted to dress decent for. Meeting him at the speed dating was a dream. He glanced at his watch; looking slightly irritated. He'd been moody, one of the reasons their short-lived romance had broken down. Now they were both single Taking a deep breath, she strode confidently towards him, the man she was going to spend the night with.
"There you are." As he looked up, she noticed how his lake-blue eyes lit up, lingering on her face, taking in every detail, from the colour of her lipstick to the swept up hair, then to her over-exposed cleavage. Suddenly she began to shake with fright, or could it be excitement?
Over the meal of shrimps in sauce, followed by peppered steak and salad, Forester and Janey chatted over old times, deciding to tell each other what had annoyed them about each other the first time round. It seemed the disagreements that drove them apart, had in some absurd way cemented their love.
"I haven't met anyone since you that would have a decent conversation with me," Forester confessed.
"Well, I'm glad about that." Janey cocked her head to one side. "Remember how we used to flick our desserts at each other?" She took a spoonful of trifle, aiming the spoon towards him laughing. Then she lowered it to her plate. When he smiled, the crinkles at the corner of his eyes, more pronounced than she remembered only made her love him more. He was holding a spoon of trifle, aiming it towards her chest, then he put it back. "We have grown up since then, haven't we?"
Janey and Forester took their brandy and ginger drinks over to the log fire where they watched it burning down to an ember. Chatting, reminiscing, sometimes just gazing at each other, Janey felt more relaxed than she had done for a long time. Now the moment was right. She reached into her handbag.
"Do you like these?" She held up the box of milk chocolates with the Irish whiskey centres, smiling demurely.
"They look good, nice for afters."
"How about we squash them over each other, then lick them off?" she whispered devilishly. It was precisely around five minutes later that they made their way into the lavish double bedroom of the Lodge.
Slowly, Janey undressed, feeling tense, yet enjoying every moment of this special time. Maybe Forester would think she'd gone too far with the chocolate game, or would he enjoy it, take it for a bit of fun, nothing more? For once in her boring life, she was living for the moment. As if they were teenagers again. Breaking up the chocolates, then pouring liquid centres over each other, rolling and frolicking like a couple of teenagers. They hadn't been as daring as this back then. Covered in whisky chocolate, licking, kissing, rolling in a heap of absolute crazy fun she had the time of her life.
Next morning, she woke wondering if Forester had enjoyed the night as much as she had. Turning to face him, his eyes told her all she needed to know. Locked in love, time stood still. Both knowing that this was only the beginning. So much loving to catch up on. Forester was first to jump out of bed.
"I'll switch the shower on." Then they saw the aftermath of their passion. Sheets smeared with chocolate – not a little bit that could be wiped off with a flannel, no, a really big bit that would never go unnoticed.
"Oh no;" Janey slid under the duvet, covering her head. "What are we going to do?"
The car was loaded up, sheets bundled in an ungainly heap up the corner of the room. Before he drove off Forester spoke briskly.
"There's something I have to do." She sat low down in her seat, in his car this time, he'd insisted on dropping her home. She waited for his return. "It's okay, I explained we had fun with a box of chocolates." Janey gaped in disbelief.
"You told them?" Forester gripped her knee laughing. "They thought it was funny: I explained we're back together after fifteen years. Don't worry. It's only chocolate and whiskey, they've likely seen worse." Janey sighed. That's one little detail she wouldn't be telling Poppy when she got back to work.
Susan is working on her first novel Hats off to Love which made it to the shortlist of the
Romantic Novelist's Association new talent competition 2012. Her short stories can be found
on Alfie dog and also on Amazon - Growing up in the 70's where you can read 'High School Blues.' Articles have been published in The Great War magazine, Best of British, Bella, Take a
Break and My Weekly. Letters on embarrassing moments have appeared twice in 'That's Life.'
Visit the author’s website here:
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