tagRomanceLove Burns Pt. 04

Love Burns Pt. 04

byMaxwellSpanx©

Chapter 16

Jessie watched through the bay window of the living room as Estin trimmed the garden hedge with a pair of rusty shears. Despite the double glazing she could hear her father's swearing. She pondered helping him tend the garden but knew that doing so would result in an argument of some kind. But it was clear he was in need of a hand, so she picked up her red coat and walked to open front door. "Want some help, Pa?"

"I thought you were waiting until spring before venturing out to lend hand."

"I'll go back inside if you carry on."

"Sorry."

"What do you want me to do then?"

Estin stepped up the rake which leant against the whitewashed wall of the house. "I should have raked the lawn before winter." He briefly smiled as he handed the rake to his daughter. "But it will be done in no time if we both get stuck in."

Jessie's brow glistened with sweat as she struggled to rake the fallen leaves into a neat pile. Despite the chill of the winter air she took off her coat then rested it on the dry stone wall.

To Jessie's utter disgust a gust of wind suddenly destroyed the pile of leaves and scattered them across the freshly raked grass. "For Christ's sake... would you look at that?" Listening to her father's chuckles coiled Jessie's spring. "I regret bloody offering to help you now."

"Calm down, Jess. Here, carry on raking while I bag them up as quick as you gather them." Estin slowly knelt on one knee to tidy away the leaves. "Should have been done weeks ago this. Look at how pale the bloody lawn is? I've seen healthier looking IT technicians... Talking about pasty looking guys. Heard from the boyfriend today?"

"Don?"

"Yeah... I thought that's what I said?"

"Not sure we were right for each other."

Estin threw a bagful of leaves into the wheelbarrow. "I've had one night stands that lasted longer than you two."

"We were just friends, really. Better it stays that way"

"Are you going to tell me what went wrong yesterday..? You were bloody fuming when you asked me to take him to Hooton."

"No."

"Look, Jessie, I'm trying to be the caring father you told me you wanted. I'm even fucking gardening just so the place looks better for mam's return." Estin put his gloved hand on his daughter's shoulder. "I'm trying here."

"You shouldn't have to try."

"Well, I am, and this is me caring. I'm not exactly going to fucking plait your hair or explain about the menstrual cycle." Estin smiled as he watched his daughter snort a laugh. "I do it by being interested about your life."

"Alright? What course am I doing at university?"

"Erm... Some kind of science."

"Ecology, Pa."

"Come on, close enough." Estin's face cracked a wry smile. "Look, don't let me get in the way of you two. If you like Dom..."

"Don. His name is Don"

"Sorry, Don... I don't mind you two being together. Honest." Estin gripped the arms of the wheelbarrow. "I got the impression that he was crazy about you. And that's all that counts, right? That he loves you."

"That's just it. He told me that he loved me, Pa."

"Great! That's isn't that what you girls want? Love and affection."

"Not that much, not so soon, anyway. "

"What?" Estin let go of the arms of the wheelbarrow. "I thought I'd have a better understanding of women by my age." He sighed as he scratched his scalp through his grey waves. "But I think I know even less these days."

"We barely know each other and yet he thinks he loves me."

"No reason to kick him out the door, though. The poor guy had no skin on his tackle, and you told him to walk all the way back to bloody England."

"I know I was harsh." Jessie sat on the stump of an old tree. "It's just he said a few things he shouldn't have... made me really angry. I know I have temper."

"You do. But at least I know you're my daughter."

"No doubting that." Wearing a sullen face she picked at the ancient bark with her fingernails. "Anyway, I'm not a total cow. I got you to give him a lift to Hooton. I would have done it, myself but I was scared of having another argument with him in the car."

"Oh, Jessie. You have that face."

"Am I a bad person, Pa?"

"Of course not." Estin sat beside Jessie, and lumped his arm around her. "I'm a man, and I know what it's like when a girl turns you down. We say things we really don't mean. Christ, down the years me and your mam have said some disgusting things to one another. " He squeezed Jessie. " It hurts us, and rightly or wrongly, we want the other person to share our pain." Leaning against his daughter, he kissed her temple. "Don is not a bad person, and neither are you."

"Hey."

"What?"

"What's got into you?"

Estin began to sweat. "What you mean?" His fear receded when Jessie's face displayed a wide smile.

"You're getting too good at all this caring malarkey."

The father and daughter laughed as they sat on the large tree stump. Estin ran his first finger across the ancient tree rings and silently counted the years. "Hey." His face spread a smile. "Remember the rope swing I made for you years ago, when you used to stay here with your nan?"

"No."

"Ah, that might actually have to do with the fact that you let go of the rope and fell head first like a mortar shell." Estin rubbed his hairy chin as he replayed the memory. "My heart stopped for a few seconds... I thought you were a goner." He laughed. "But you got up as right as rain. That was when I knew you were a real Jones, made of stern stuff. Bomb proof, we are."

"I really don't remember..." Jessie suddenly felt distracted by the sound of a car slowing to a stop on the lane. She stood so she could peer over the garden wall. "Pa, it's a taxi. It must be mam."

"Christ! We're not finished. All this father and daughter stuff has slowed us down."

Jessie waved at her mother who stepped out of the taxi. "Mam." Running to the gate, Jessie flung herself into her mother's arms. "Missed you."

"Missed you too." Maud kissed her daughter on the forehead. "What a lovely surprise to see you both outside."

"We were just taking a break from the gardening."

"Gardening? You must have been bored." Maud glanced around the garden while walking through the gate. "And where's Don? I thought your father told me that Don was here until Monday?"

"He... went home yesterday."

"Oh that's a shame." Maud stared at her husband. "Hi, Estin, how are you?"

"I'm fine. How are you feeling?"

"I'm alcohol free and I never felt better."

"Thank fuck for that." Wearing a wide grin, Estin spread his arms and hugged his wife. "Welcome home, Matey."

"I'm looking forward to spending a quiet Christmas with you two. Have a real family Christmas for a change."

"I second that."

"But maybe get Don over for a few days, it would be nice to see him." Maud glanced at Jessie. "What do you think?"

"Mam, we're not an item. Just friends."

"Oh...Oh, that's a shame, Love."

Estin grabbed his wife's suitcase. "Would you believe it, Maud? She dumped him because he loved her."

"Did you, Jess?"

Feeling the pressure, Jessie snapped. "Will you two leave me alone? Look, we were together for a few hours and he tells me he loves me. By the end of the week, we'd probably be married, and by the end of the month we might have two kids and a bloody mortgage."

"Oh, love." Maud covered her mouth while she chuckled. "You sound just like your father."

"It would be alright if we were just a little more casual. Save all the lovey dovey stuff for the future."

"Maybe he just wanted to show you that he was serious, and not just a midnight cowboy." Maud rubbed her daughter's back. "Come on. Let's talk over a pot of tea."

"I'll put the kettle on." Jessie grabbed her red coat from the wall. "But can we talk about something else rather than Don."

Estin opened the front door. "Most men think with their penis, Jess. But at least Don seems to cook with his."

Maud glanced at Estin. "What do you mean by that?"

"Let's just say we need a new toaster."

"Jess?"

"He can't cook with it, Mam." Jessie groaned as she opened the living room door. "It just got in the way."

Maud stopped then shook her head. "Got in the way? Good Lord."

Chapter 17

The air felt thick with moisture from the shower in the ensuite. Clothes littered the bed as Estin and Maud dressed for a Christmas party. Sliding a carved glass bottle of perfume from its cardboard sleeve, Maud squirted some scent on her wrists before massaging it on to her neck. "I can't remember the last time I wore this."

"Can't be that long ago. I only bought it you for your fiftieth."

"I'm fifty three now... and probably not worn it since."

Estin stared at himself in the full length mirror. "I'm too fat for this suit. Sadly, it's been a while since I fitted a 34."

Maud stood beside Estin and stared at her reflection in the mirror while attaching her gold dainty earrings. "Nonsense, you look really handsome."

"Bollocks." Estin poked his belly. "I'm full of fat... I may as well be a chip pan."

"Stop exaggerating. Men of your age are not supposed to be stick thin, anyway."

"Men of my age? You make me sound like I should be booking a seat on nature's scrapheap."

"You know what I'm saying." Standing behind Estin, Maud folded her arms around his stomach. "You certainly felt like a young man last night."

"Shame I don't look like one."

"With the lights off it doesn't matter. You could have been a man in his prime."

"I could really take that the wrong way you know, Maud."

"Don't do. " Maud chuckled as she fixed her lipstick. "You rattled me like a skittle last night."

Estin picked up the dickie bow from the dressing table, and began threading it through his collar. "It was quite a night, you're right."

"We haven't made love like that in years... I think the last time we did it like that, Jessie came along."

"Don't get any ideas, Maud. Twenty two years and she's still showing no signs of leaving."

"Don't say that. It's great still having Jess here... she's probably kept us together."

"She does a good job of the dishes, I'll give her that."

Maud frowned at Estin. "She's a good little cook our Jess, and does her fair share of cleaning."

"I know... But I'm waiting to be able to use her room for my train sets. The spare room is too small and my office is just that... an office. When Don was here, I was already dusting off my signal boxes."

"I told you, we're keeping Jessie's room the way it is."

"Why though?"

"We've been over this, Love. There will be little chance of Jessie living around here. So it would be nice to have somewhere for her to stay during her visits."

"But I had plans to convert her bedroom into the West Coast Main Line."

Maud wore a disbelieving smile. "Buy a bigger shed then."

Estin, frustrated by his failed attempts to attach his dickie-bow, threw it on the dresser. "What is the point of a fucking dickie bow, anyway? Can't I just wear an open collar?"

"Your boss ordered the suit for you. So of course he expects you to wear it."

"A dickie bow, though? I used to bully a kid in school for wearing one."

"Then call it karma." Maud turned Estin towards her, and threaded the bow under his collar. "There you are. What's all the fuss about?" She then picked up her handbag from the bed. "Come on, let's go. The taxi's due."

~

Downstairs, Maud stuck her head around the living room door where she found Jessie sat watching TV with Chewy lying across her lap. "We're off, Love."

"Have fun." Jessie watched Estin step into the living room. "Oh, look who's wearing a dickie bow?"

"It's not my choice."

"What's up? I think you look good."

"Don't patronise me, Jess. I'm dressed up like a gay man's poodle." Estin felt the radiator. "Make sure that goes off before you go to bed." He glanced at Maud before laughing. "The damn thing is hotter than your mother."

Jessie cringed, and held the cushion over her face. "Oh, please leave it until you get outside."

~

Sitting in the back of the back of the taxi, Maud felt Estin's hand rest on her thigh, and placed hers on top. "I won't let you down tonight. I know I can resist the temptation."

"I think you're very brave coming out so soon."

"I wanted a taste of the Christmas spirit, you know?"

"As long as that's the only spirit you taste. I don't want you to even look at the top shelf of the bar. "

Maud tapped his hand. "OK, Estin. Calm down."

Passing through an ornate gatehouse, the taxi crawled along a cobbled avenue lined with frost covered yew trees. Out of the wintery darkness appeared the majestic country mansion.

A doorman greeted Maud and Estin as they emerged from the taxi. "Evening Sir, can I take your name?"

"Estin Jones, and this is my wife, Maud. I'm here for the Callaghan Christmas party."

The doorman studied his list. "So you are. The Callaghan party are currently in the Powys Suite. Through the main entrance, first door on your right."

Holding hands, the married couple walked up the red carpet that led to the entrance. They stepped into an oak panelled entrance hall and turned right, before being greeted by a waiter who offered Maud a complimentary glass of wine. "White or red, Madam?"

Holding her hand up, Maud smiled. "No, thanks."

Estin nodded and placed a hand on Maud's back. "I'll go the bar and order us two fruit juices, shall I?"

"Order yourself whatever you want. It's your night."

"You sure? I don't mind helping you out. Supporting you and all that."

"Please, its fine."

"I'll go an order a beer then... Wine just gets me in trouble with the wrong people."

Maud sat on a cushioned chair beside a highly polished suit of armour. Her eyes followed the large staircase that split into two flights before coming back on itself and reaching the first floor. Over the chorus of chatter, her ears picked up Estin's booming voice. She wasn't surprised that he was warmly welcomed by his colleagues.

~

Estin ground his teeth as the barman seemed intent on serving everyone except him. A young bald-headed stranger waved from across the bar, before walking up to him. Estin suddenly remembered once panicking about having to donate a fiver to a colleague who was locked in a fight with cancer. Placing a sympathetic hand on his colleague's shoulder, Estin whispered, "I don't mind chipping in again, if you want to buy yourself a wig. I'll send a group email to management and get you sorted out." He winked. "Don't worry kiddo, Big E has your back."

"It's me Dave, the apprentice CAD engineer. I got my hair shaved... Like you told me to last week at the airport."

"Fucking hell... Ginger Dave."

"What have I done?"

Estin witnessed the desperation on Dave's face. "Cheer up. At least you haven't got cancer." He polished the top of Dave's head. "Look at that, smoother than a newborn's arse."

"Stop buffing my head like a cue ball."

"Your ginger curls will grow back... eventually. Now, what are you drinking, humpty?"

"Fuck off... My head was freezing on the way here... Been sat next to the fire all night."

"You don't want to be sitting there too long."

"Why? It was rather lovely."

"You might become hard boiled." Estin sniggered as he passed a beer to Dave who snatched it from his hand before walking off into the crowd. Turning back to face the barman, Estin heard an imperious Bavarian accent. "We meet again, Mr Jones."

"H... Helga?"

A tall blond wearing a tight fitting gold evening gown smiled at Estin. Her prominent cheek bones gave her beauty a cutting edge. "Oh, Estin. You seem a little surprised to see me."

"What the bloody hell are you doing here?"

"Hopefully giving you something you'll never forget."

Estin nervously laughed as the pores of his skin began to clam up. "Aye, you've done that alright."

"I see you haven't yet learned the error of your ways."

"Huh?"

Helga twiddled his bow with her forefinger. "Getting your dickie out at every opportunity." She whispered into his ear. "Later tonight, a drunken girl might not be able to resist such an offer."

"I'm surprised you're here. I didn't know anyone from Smitz was invited."

"I have transferred to Callaghan as part of our new business partnership. I'm starting after the new year." Helga closed in on Estin, and brushed his hand with hers. "Good for company relations, don't you think?"

"I have to get back to my wife."

"What?" Helga glared at Estin. "You brought her with you..? You told me you were both finished."

"What can I say?"

"I moved from Cologne to shitty Wrexham, thinking we could spend our first Christmas together."

"What? I didn't ask you to."

"You didn't need to. I'm in love with you."

Estin's eyes widened. "What did you just say?"

"I love you."

"Oh, Christ..."

"What?"

"Are you related to Don?"

"Don..?" Helga felt confused. "Who is this Don?"

"Never mind."

"You're not getting out of this." Helga grabbed Estin's hand and marched him to a corner of the room. "You told me you loved me, and I believed you. I pushed for this transfer just to give us a chance."

"I didn't."

"Don't deny it."

"Look, I said I loved you during sex. Surely you know the difference."

"You repeatedly told me that."

"What can I say?" Estin's cheek's burned. "You're an talented lover."

"You turn my stomach."

"But you have to understand, I couldn't have even dreamed of pulling you when I was twenty six... I'm now fifty fucking six. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven when you jumped on me. But..."

"But what?"

"To me it was a holiday romance... I just thought it was the same thing for you."

"You bastard." Helga emptied her wine glass in one huge swig. "Ok, fine. Holiday sex it was."

"Good."

"I'll see you both at the table."

"We're sitting together?"

"Have you not checked the table plan? Dickie head."

Estin pulled at his dickie bow, then let slip a nervous laugh. "Great." Turning his back, he muttered under his breath, "Schizer."

~

Maud watched Estin return from the bar. Taking the juice from his hand, she could see the sweat on his brow. "Estin, Love. She is too young for you."

"Oh her... Of course."

"She'll give you a heart attack." Maud sucked the juice up the straw. "She could be a model. Almost looks Danish or something."

"She's German."

"So that's why you fly there all the time."

"Smitz are our main client now. She works for them."

"What's her name?"

Estin emptied half his glass in one go. "Helga."

"Poor girl. And I though Maud was a bad name."

"You'll get a chance to talk to her later... try and be nice. She's German remember We don't want to start another war."

"I'll be nice... as long as she doesn't touch you again."

"What do you mean?"

Maud moved her glass to one side and leaned across the table. Her eyes glistened as tears formed. "Come on, Estin. Just the fact you're denying it makes me suspicious. It was played out right there... in front of me."

"What?"

"Playing with your bow, holding your hand. Not to mention your heated argument which you tried to hide from me. Do you think I'm stupid?"

Estin's cheeks burned as red as his dickie bow. "There is nothing going on. We were arguing over a botched contract. She thinks I'm screwing her." Estin cringed. "Forgive me for the poor choice of words."

"I'll behave tonight, Estin. But whatever it is, it has to finish."

"What has to finish?"

Maud stood from her chair and thrust her fists down on the table. "I said, promise me."

"OK."

"Say it."

"I promise."

"I'm going the bathroom." Maud grabbed her handbag. "I'm so disappointed in you... Your philandering is the last thing I need."

~

Sitting on the toilet seat, Maud poured tears into her open hands. Mascara blotted tissue paper covered the terracotta tiles. She flipped her shoes off and kicked against the door with her stocking feet. "Estin you bastard... How could you?" She rattled the door again and again. "You fucking bastard."

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