6 Mayıs 2023

Jared and the Reluctant Groupie – Part 1


Tabitha Chesterfield stood motionless at the granite work-top, staring across the Cranleigh Manor lawn. It rolled half an acre to the treeline and looked magnificent in its lustrous green, or would have, had it not been for the massive pit currently being dug in its centre. The sculpted rockeries would look exquisite around the edges once the transformation was complete—she might even tend the bedding plants herself—but why Grant was insisting on a carp pond she was unsure.Presumably, so he could thumb at them glibly when providing guests with a tour of the place. “Those are the koi carp,” he’d say, as if everyone had them, and then move on without looking. He wanted a sundial near the trees as well.Beneath the kitchen window on the patio Sorrel Chesterfield was stretched on a sun lounger, soaking up UV rays on virtually every inch of her lithe, petite body. She was dividing her attention between communications on her smartphone and the guy digging out the great pit. Grant’s hired labourer was undeniably a distraction; Tabitha had already nicked her thumb while slicing the peppers under influence of the visual he provided. It was the way that great jagged tattoo rippled every time he braced his upper arms to thrust the spade back into the earth.That and all the dirt, and the sweat.She sucked her thumb idly—damn, that new bank of knives was sharp—and contemplated bringing him a drink. With Sorrel there on full alert, she decided against it. Tabitha couldn’t have stood the barbed comments that would result from such an act of kindness. She couldn’t afford to provide any more fuel, not after last summer. Got to behave myself. Stoically she diced cucumbers and tossed the salad ingredients all together in the steel bowl. Okay, let’s try a vinaigrette …She flicked through the pages to the salad section of her Wolfgang Puck recipe book till her glance settled on ‘Classic Vinaigrette’. Better master the classic version before I go for something crazy. Should have let my mum teach me this stuff.“So why the sudden need to play domestic goddess?” Grant had asked as if it amused him. “I thought you were all in favour of my getting someone in to do that.”“Maybe I just need something to keep me busy,” she’d replied, adding artificial sweetener to her tone. Something to keep me from going mad.She’d have liked to put on her black one-piece swimsuit and taken some sunshine herself that afternoon—sessions at the gym had kept her sufficiently svelte to wear it—but it simply wouldn’t be a comfortable situation. Not with the young heiress out there at the same time as the hunky hired help. So she let Sorrel sun-cream her twenty-year-old self for his delectation in between bouts of social messaging, while she got on with preparing dinner, endeavouring to ignore the girl and her antics. It was a losing battle, so great was her sense of irritation.Her blond step-daughter was replenishing her glass with iced lemonade from the jug she had next to her. Now the girl was swinging herself off the lounger and padding across the patio to the kitchen. “He must be getting hot out there—don’t you think?” she said, fetching a second glass from the cupboard in the hot-pink swim costume that so irritated her dad.“I expect so,” Tabitha replied. “It’s a warm day for May.” Always best to keep her comments as bland as possible in Sorrel’s company.“I’m gonna go reward him. Bet you’d like to.”She smirked on the way past and Tabitha glowered at the Sorrel’s string-bikinied bottom as she departed. She tried not to look, not to care, as the young would-be temptress poured lemonade, marched across the lawn and proffered the glass. The gardener smiled to see her, and what red-blooded man wouldn’t be gratified by the approach of the pert blonde with her five-foot-and-a-smidge’s worth of oiled-up curves? He let the spade drop, wiping dirt from his naked torso before knocking back his refreshment in a couple of gulps. Not a guy that Sorrel would be seen dead around town with, but she’d give him an hour or two of her time in private if she got the chance.Yes, I damn well would like to reward him too, since you ask, and I could do it better than you ever could. He wouldn’t give you a second glance once I got started…Time to drop that kind of thinking. Tabitha had to keep her needs bottled up with that little spy around. She turned away from the vision of Sorrel flaunting her cutesy body in front of the long-haired labourer and set about preparing the pork for the stir-fry. A student classic, one which had been a staple of her roommate Andrew; not exactly the haute cuisine which Grant claimed to prefer, but it would serve. Maybe Andy would have been proud to see her rustling it up, even if her husband treated it as scarcely more than a joke.She called the latter to check on when he’d be home. Grant Chesterfield sounded distracted. “What? No, I’ll be on the links till eight, I’ve only started this round. I’ll grab something at the club.”“But I’m in the middle of preparing a whole meal. You said you’d be back in the early evening.”“Plans change. I’ll be back when I’m back.”Well, fuck you!Tabitha bit down on her anger and stared grimly through the window once the call was done. Plans change. How nice it would be if everything in life were that simple. Anadolu Yakası Escort She tried to pinpoint the moment she had realised her husband was tired of his younger wife, but the degree of self-delusion in which she had indulged over several years made it tricky. He still introduced her to strangers with an air of pride, but without the warmth that had once underlain it. A girl feels these things, darling, but I liked it better when you still made the effort to pretend. This trophy is feeling distinctly tarnished. Not that she’d ever said it to him aloud.Sorrel, as she’d expected, appeared deeply unimpressed by the culinary efforts her step-mom was making. “What is that?” the little blonde inquired, inspecting the contents of the pan with suspicion. “Some kind of English thing?”Tabitha had no idea whether stir-fry was unique to any particular nation’s cuisine. “It’s pork and vegetables,” she explained. “I’ve made some salad too.”“I’m not hungry,” her step-daughter said dismissively. “I’ll get something later when I’m out.”Tabitha watched wordlessly as Sorrel took her towel and herself upstairs to the bathroom. Fuck you too. I’ll have it myself.It was a lonely meal, but not the first of that kind she had eaten at the Chesterfield kitchen table. Happy families, she thought grimly as she munched. Outside the gardener was splashing down his face and upper body at the trendy archway shower Grant had had installed beyond the patio, his denim pants getting soaked in the process. Tabitha gazed and smiled, thinking how much chagrin Sorrel would feel if she knew she’d missed this treat. God, he was well-defined. Features rugged enough for him to star in one of those ‘real-man’ jeans or aftershave commercials and good Lord, he was sturdily made. She found herself wishing he would unloose his pony-tailed hair and rinse it out in the jets, before mentally slapping herself for letting her thoughts stray that direction.Naughty, naughty. Can’t allow that kind of nonsense to interfere with my domestic bliss…Then he shocked her by showing up wet and dripping in the porch, a laconic smile on his face. Now when his eyes lit like that, it did wonders for him. Transformed him completely. “Hi,” she said, the fork not quite making it to her mouth. “Is everything okay?”“I’m done for the afternoon,” he told her. “Couple more days should finish my stuff, then the other guy will come in and do the difficult part. Y’ know, the part that requires actual talent.”Tabitha recalled how pissed off Grant had been that his ‘garden architect’ had double-booked himself and wouldn’t be there to do all the preliminary work. “Jared’s good,” the guy had insisted. “He’s hard-working, he’s dependable and he’ll be working from a detailed brief provided by me. Any problems, just give me a call.” Her husband would have sacked the guy for double-booking his services, had he not established such a good name for himself as a landscaper.“That’s fine,” she told the surrogate, keeping her eyes studiously from the hard steel of his upper body. “I’ll let my husband know.”“Sure thing. Eating alone?”The remark took her aback. Cheeky bugger—mind your own bloody beeswax. “Looks that way. Why, are you hungry?”“Well I don’t like to intrude, but if you’re offering…”“I…” She hadn’t exactly been offering, she thought, more tossing out a courtesy that she was pretty sure he’d refuse. Still, why should the food go to waste? It wasn’t like her stir-fry was inedible. “Yes, I’m offering. Let me fetch a plate.”Now she felt like Lady bloody Bountiful, dishing out scraps to the hired help at the tradesman’s entrance. If Sorrel hadn’t been lurking she might have invited him to join her at the table. He didn’t seem to mind, however, as she handed over a full plate. Nor did he retreat into the garden to eat, preferring to lean fork-in-hand against the kitchen doorway. “This is good,” he said, chewing vigorously. “Really good. Your husband’s missing a treat.”All kinds of treats, she might have said, and wondered from the way this Jared guy was looking at her whether or not he’d meant it that way. She took the compliment to refer purely to the food. “Thanks. Glad there’s someone to enjoy it. You… ehh… do this all the time? Gardening work, I mean.” Not scrounging food from people’s kitchens.“I do whatever it takes to get by. Jack of all trades, isn’t that the phrase? Master of—well—one.”“Really? And what’s the one?”“I play guitar. In a real-life rock band.” The comical way in which he said it undercut any possible pretension in the statement.“My goodness. Are you going to be famous? I mean maybe you are, but I assume if you were…”“I wouldn’t be digging holes in people’s lawns? No, we’re not famous yet. We’re just a bunch of ragged-assed rockers in a post-rock era, tryin’ to entertain. Not doin’ a bad job. Got a couple of gigs in Philly at the weekend if you’re interested. You and Mister Chesterfield I mean.”Was he taking the piss out of her marital situation? Or was that simply her paranoia? “It sounds fun,” she said, and she meant it, “but I might be too busy. There’s a party we’re going to.” The kind of party I used to think was glamorous. “Plus Grant is more into jazz.” Or pretends to be.“Come on your own,” he said. “Sunday Anadolu Yakası Escort Bayan night we’re at the Electric Factory. Damn sight better than our usual venues. It’ll be fun.”“Well, I…”“C’mon, you know you want to,” he teased, in between wolfing stir-fry. She raised a dubious eyebrow. “Or not. Look, you know where we are. Maybe you can talk hubby into going.”“I’d say that’s a long-shot.”“Shame. Hey, I gotta ask, what’s that English accent doing here? Not that it doesn’t match the tone, ‘cos it totally does.”Tabitha fought for a response, not least because she had no good answer. How had a girl from Surrey, England come to be sitting alone in a nouveau riche Pennsylvania house proclaiming the title ‘manor’ at the front? God, she was around the same age as this guy, but she felt horribly older. “I… I met Grant when he was visiting London and…”“And the rest was written by Disney, I get it. You’re lucky.”I’m not, and you know it, you cocky bastard. She realised that her mouth was hanging open. “I… Yes, yes I’m very lucky. It’s all worked out great for me. Have you finished that?”“Uh-huh, yeah.” He clattered his empty plate down on the table. “It was delicious, Mrs Chesterfield.”“Don’t call me that,” she snapped. It really makes me feel fucking ancient.“Sorry, boss’s wife and all that. What should I call you?”He shouldn’t have been getting so familiar as to call her anything, it occurred to her, although it was flattering nonetheless that he was so keen to tease. “My name’s Tabitha,” she said.“Tabitha. I like that. It’s very… what’s that show? The one with the stately home and Lord Whatshisname and the great-grandma from Hogwarts? I saw it on somebody’s cable when I was stoned one night.”“Ehhh—Downton Abbey?”“That’s the one. Your name’s very Downton Abbey. You could be Lady Tabitha, heiress to the estate.”She laughed, somewhere between irritated and entertained. “Oh—Oh, well I’m glad I fit your stereotype of a posh English girl.” Although I won’t be heiress to anything, certainly not this place.“You do,” he replied, with a lack of apology that was strangely appealing. “I’m Jared, by the way.”“I know exactly who you are,” she said with a rueful smile. “And you’re ticking all kinds of boxes on my rock guitarist stereotype check-list.” Wasn’t he just?“I’m glad, Tabitha.”“Oh yes, I know you are. However, I think it’s time that you …”“Well, this looks cosy.”Sorrel Chesterfield was leaning in the doorframe between kitchen and hall, wearing a sardonic smile and a bright orange bath-towel. The towel had been tucked beneath her armpits leaving lots of wet boobage on display, its lower hem skimming her tanned thighs. Her wetted hair was scraped back, showing off her features in all their pretty disdain. Tabitha’s heart flumped heavily in her chest. This she didn’t need.“Guy’s gotta eat,” Jared said in a pleasant manner. “The Mistress of the house provided.”“She likes doing that.”Tabitha bit down on her rising anger.“I hope I didn’t steal your share, darlin’.”“Trust me, I really don’t care if you ate it all.”“You missed out, that’s all I can say.” Jared was resolutely refusing to pick up on the girl’s irony, Tabitha noted with gratitude. “Look, I gotta hit the road…”“Sure you don’t wanna shower? I can show you where it is.” God, the brazen little hussy would shag him in the bathroom suite simply because she thought Tabitha had been hitting on him. The girl’s behaviour was becoming more passive-aggressive by the day.“And get mud everywhere? I’d need to strip off here in the kitchen.” Jared did not sound like he was discounting the idea. Whether or not he’d be willing to act on it remained unknown, however, for at that moment some rock riff sounding from his pocket. “Damn, no wonder I don’t like carrying these fuckers around,” he said with a grin as he dragged his phone out of hiding and answered the call. “Larry, hey—yeah, it’s all good so far, it’s a work of fuckin’ art. Sweetest hole I ever dug.” He winked at Tabitha. “Now Larry, would I lie to you? By the weekend, sure. You can take over Monday and work your magic. Want me to come pick you up now? You got it.” He signed off.“Gotta take a rain-check on that shower,” he told a disappointed Sorrel, before glancing over to Tabitha. “Man in charge of the operation lent me his van and he’s kinda stranded elsewhere till I get there. But it’s been a pleasure getting acquainted with you both today. You’ve both been great hostesses—made a guy feel welcome. Look, you girls enjoy your evening and we can do it all again tomorrow.”With what Tabitha assumed to be a trademark grin, he left to gather up his tools from the lawn. Sorrel cast an irritable glance her way, like it was the girl’s unwanted step-mom and not some phone-caller who had spoiled her fun. “Got your eye on him,” she commented, her smile wry and knowing. I got your number. In fact, I got more and you know it. It was there in the girl’s face.Tabitha watched bitterly as the little blond madam breezed away. She stared after the muddied rock-and-roller, surprised at how much yearning she felt at his departure. God, if she could have had him to herself for an afternoon…It’d serve as a brief respite from the mess in which she’d landed herself.~~~~The Escort Anadolu Yakası row occurred next morning. It proved as bad a one as she could recall since her inclusion into the Chesterfield household.She had been doing brisk work on her cross-trainer in front of the bedroom’s flat-screen television when she first heard raised voices. Sorrel working her father once again, no doubt. Tabitha wondered how well they’d all fare if given family therapy of the kind dished out on the day-time talk-show she’d been watching and grimaced at the thought. Not with any dignity left intact by the end of it, she guessed.Grant had been at work in his home office, doing whatever people involved on the cutting edge of biotechnology did, but his work routine was being disrupted by his daughter. Tabitha could not help but listen from the top of the stairwell as she patted her sweating body with a towel. “We already talked about this,” Sorrel was moaning petulantly. “You said it would be ready for my twenty-first birthday.”“Well, I might have said I’d think about it…”“You said you would! I totally remember the conversation. You told me I deserved to have my own gym here ‘cos you knew I’d make good use of it. Those were your words.”“That’s all very well, honey… Do you have any idea how expensive it is getting the garden renovations done? How much the kitchen cost or any of the bathrooms? That’s on top of the mortgage. You of all people ought to know how much more that’s costing than our place in town. You were keen enough to come live here at Mill Creek Ridge, that’s all I heard from you for months.” Tabitha rolled her eyes. Like Grant hadn’t been keen to put his stamp on the designer real estate being constructed in this development.“Yeah, and you said I could have the gym as part of that,” Sorrel persisted. “You promised. I mean c’mon, dad, what do you do in that office all day?”“Look, I… Maybe I said I’d have it installed down the line, but…”“It was for my twenty-first birthday. Or doesn’t that mean anything to you, Daddy?”“Of course it does, baby. I’m not saying it doesn’t. I…”Here we go. The alpha millionaire crumbles once again in the face of his foot-stamping daughter.“I’ll see what I can do,” Grant conceded. “Come on, there’s no need to frown. I don’t ever let you down, you know that, baby.”There was a pause, followed by a pacified “Yeah, I know.” That would lead to the obligatory ‘got-my-way’ hug and the application of a peck on her father’s cheek. “Thanks, Daddy.” There it was—chirpiness resumed.How painfully predictable.Tabitha ducked back into the marital bedroom as Sorrel skipped upstairs to her own room, a shadow casting itself across her mind. So where’s this gym going to be anyway? Surely not in… He wouldn’t, would he?She went downstairs to lay the matter to rest. Grant was making coffee in the kitchen, his shoulders sagging in a world-weary fashion. Middle-age was settling on him more thickly than she had ever believed would happen when they married eight years before. Bloatedness had taken the edge off his patrician good looks—a sedentary lifestyle soaked with too much red wine.“All done?” He glanced over her in her post-workout state, before returning to the cafetiere, spooning in coffee from a packet. A few years before his gaze would have stayed on the porcelain beauty of his English rose, glowing as it was from physical exertion. He’d have unloosened her long dark tresses and stroked, commenting on how perfectly her eyes matched them. He might even have been stirred enough to caress her intimately right there in the kitchen while she was still wearing her sweats, glancing over her shoulder to check that Sorrel wasn’t lurking. Their heights had complimented, her five-nine reaching up for his six foot three, as they came together. Such a shame so little else did.“Darling,” she said, “I couldn’t help but overhear what you were saying to Sorrel.” He turned to look at her, annoyance registering already in his eyes. In retrospect, she should have picked her moment better, but she’d already begun, so… “If you’ve been talking about letting her have her own gym, which room did you have in mind?”“Ehhh… The second guest room, next door to hers.”“The one which you said I could use as a studio.”He paused, taking on a defensive air. “I mentioned it as a possibility…”“A possibility? Grant, we had a full conversation about it, we talked the whole thing through. You said I could turn that room into a studio so I could pursue my…”“Yeah, I remember what I said, and I also remember telling you that we’d all be making sacrifices around here with the mortgage repayments being so high.”Tabitha was stumped for a moment by the outrageousness of the statement. “Sacrifices—like providing your daughter with her own personalised gym? I thought she was moving into her own apartment soon, largely funded by you. I can’t see why she needs a gym back here.”“Look Tab, she’s my daughter, it’s a special birthday and if that’s what she wants, then…”“She’s your daughter? I’m your wife, Grant. We discussed this and you seemed perfectly happy…”“Tab, now is not the time to have this conversation. I’m in the middle of…”“You seemed perfectly happy…” Tabitha forged ahead undeterred. “… for me to make that room my own. You actually seemed to understand what it meant to me to take up my …”“To start making your pots again, yes I know.”“Making my pots?” You patronising bastard. “Grant, I studied at art school three years. I was starting to make some headway and I let it go. For you. To come here. You said that I could have that space to myself to start over. You promised.”

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