March is such a sluggish month. Dregs of winter impede the appearance of spring and postpones the awakening of hope. But this year Angela Wilson’s mood was nowhere near maudlin, which probably had something to do with Bridie.
Though the living room fire was blazing, the room was reluctant to shake off the winter chill. It was actually designed as a bedroom, even though it was on street level, but they soon changed that. Bradley and Angela were of the opinion that chambers designated for the sexually inclined were definitely better located on an upper floor. With the over-large window directly opposite the homes of eager and impressionable youth Angela’s stomach rolled over at the idea of transforming their young neighbours into voyeurs.
Of the three bedrooms in the house Angela and Brad’s was the most modern. Lots of cane and pine and a water bed that even now Angela was not at ease with. She had been certain the episodes of frenzied limb-racking would create a puncture, but those days were few and far between.
Brad worked away on a regular basis, sometimes abroad but mostly in the
He was Sales Director of a furnishing company that specialised in beds of all
kinds. His selling record was so good he’d been promoted soon after the firm
opened the UK Brighton branch. Promotion meant
frequent travel, sometimes for weeks at a time.
Bridie spent many hours in the
household, sometimes babysitting, sometimes calling round for lunch. Being an excellent and enthusiastic cook she
often undertook to cook them a meal before going back to her own apartment. When
Brad was away she stayed over, sharing Angela’s free time and Angela’s bed. Other
rooms were occupied by kids reluctant to shift and in this they were backed up
by their mother who wanted security and normality for her children. Wilson
Brad suggested that Bridie stayed, arguing that since her car was unreliable and him not around to drive her home it made more sense. Angela agreed to air the idea but privately contended that Bridie was perfectly capable of using the bus.
It was amazing how circumstances could change one’s mind.
The first time Bridie stayed, although by then Angela had got to know and like her guest, she felt nervous about sharing her bed. But the hour was late and they’d both had too much to drink for Bridie even to consider driving home.
Bridie was more relaxed about it, rushing into the bedroom exclaiming enthusiastically over the décor and furnishings. Angela hushed her, reminding her by placing two hands against her cheek that the children were asleep. Bridie immediately put her forefinger to her lips and crept towards the bed upon which, to Angela’s horror, she began to bounce. Angela’s heart leapt into her mouth, so fearful was she that unstoppable water would gush out and flood the room. The occurrence actually served to dismiss Angela’s embarrassment at undressing in front of Bridie … her alarmed shriek produced so much laughter that the two fell onto the bed in a state of total paroxysm.
In her alone moments Angela remembered that night, she would relive it, seeing again the way Bridie writhed ecstatically when she climbed on the bed. She had a nice body, lissom and free, unlike her own somewhat stilted form.
Bridie’s influence on the family was considerable. Seven year old Denny doted on her. Sarah Louise followed her everywhere, practically walking on her heels. Brad reckoned she was suffering from a touch of hero-worship though Angela thought nine years of age was a bit young for that. Even Tiny, the mongrel, obeyed when Bridie O’Shea issued an instruction.
There could be no argument about her attractiveness. Bridie had an expressive face with skin smooth as silk and laughing green eyes peering through a Titian fringe; long, straight hair, stylishly cut to frame her face with wispy strands flying loose around the ears. Small ears but powerful hearing. She was vibrant and exciting. She would enthuse over things that others overlooked, a bit dramatic at times, yet endearingly so.
At the start of their acquaintance Angela mistrusted all that zeal, believing it to be put on in order to establish some sort of familiarity, but the more she got to know her the more Bridie proved to be a naturally zealous, harmless soul.
It was Brad who introduced Bridie to the family. They met at a weekend seminar in a
hotel. On discovering how close to him she lived he invited her home to dinner.
Angela remembered being furious that he’d done it without consultation, thus
she was determined to dislike her.
When Bridie arrived Angela took one look at her tall, slender figure, the dove grey designer suit worn over a scarlet blouse, five inch heels that looked as if they were glued to her feet, and felt an immediate bête-noire. All evening she was powerless to control the sarcasm, frequently alluding to the seminar, making childish innuendoes about the sleeping arrangements and suggesting that seaside hotels were rife with off-leash husbands. It was a surprise that Bridie didn’t walk out. What Angela didn’t know was that Bridie was a nice person. She knew Angela was resentful, yet she stuck around.
Angela got over it. In fact, as days turned into months, Bridie only had to crook a finger for her to rush to her side.
It took a lot for Brad to admit he was wrong.
From the first moment he saw Bridie he was besotted. He wanted her, needed her near him. The longing to touch her kept him awake nights. He would lie at Angela’s side, curled away from her, and allow visions of Bridie to enter his mind, imagining her in Angela’s place, her small but perfectly shaped breasts pressed against him. What did she think of him? Did she know how his heart beats quickened whenever he saw her?
The knowledge that she shared his bed with Angela did nothing to ease the ache in his loins. If anything it made him want Bridie more. He wanted to see for himself how they behaved together. Were they lovers? Was that why Angela’s manner had softened? Or why she no longer seemed to mind when he went away?
Angela had long since ceased to matter in his eyes. She had changed over the years, become more like her wretched mother, always nagging and making out she had headaches at bedtime. Funny she didn’t have them during the day. He knew that at forty-nine he was no longer the greatest specimen of manhood, the flabbiness around his belly confirmed that, but he did still have urges that needed satisfying. In real terms his wife was no longer fun to be with and their rowdy kids drove him crazy.
Bridget O’Shea had been like a breath of fresh air and still was but lately he thought she gave Angela more of her time. He’d hoped, by the special way she kissed him whenever they met, that Bridie fancied him. It wasn’t just the kiss, it was the whole body language, the way her fingers caressed his neck when he bent to kiss her cheek, the way she twisted her head to redirect his lips, the pressure of her body against his, and the brief gyration of hips. Not even Angela kissed him like that.
Brad thought back to the evening Angela visited her mother. Bridie popped in unexpectedly, professing that she didn’t know Angela would be out. She’d dropped her coat on a vacant chair and flopped down on the three-seater couch, caressing the cushion next to her as an indication that he should sit beside her. He did, but not until he’d poured two large glasses of Pinot Noir.
They’d talked about their respective jobs, her hand on his knee all the time, one finger gently scratching his jeans as it inched higher and higher up his thigh. The jolts inside him were too powerful to ignore. He totally lost control, seizing her body, crushing her to him until she gasped for breath. He kissed her delicious lips. When their tongues met it was like heaven had opened its door. If Angela hadn’t arrived home at that very minute they might well have ended up on the water bed.
Yes, he thought she was falling in love with him … until the day his appointment at the
branch was cancelled at the last minute and he arrived home without warning.
Bridie wasn’t feeling well so Angela had invited her to stay the night rather
than go home to a lonely apartment. He’d ended up sharing young Denny’s bed,
unable to sleep because his thoughts were in the next room.
He rose early, thinking he would grab the bathroom before anyone was about, but Bridie was there before him. He saw her go in, heard the bolt hit home, the first fall of shower water. He imagined her stripping off the borrowed dressing gown, imagined her naked under the spray, soaping and swilling, and wished he was in there with her. All he could do was wait.
But he had a rude awakening when she emerged, back in Angela’s gown, a towel wrapped round her beautiful hair, smelling of Imperial Leather. It was only a minor brush there outside the bathroom, when his towel caught the gown and pulled it to one side, when he gazed in fascination at the sight of her shapely white thigh, so the unexpected harsh rebuke and the venom in her voice was like a punch in the gut. Only then did he realise he was mistaken.
Angela watched Brad through the dressing table mirror, trying to gauge his thoughts as he lay reading in bed. The book was called Trio, which she thought was very appropriate. They had retired early. The children were staying with grandparents for two days, no doubt being cosseted and spoiled. She picked up the framed photograph that had graced the dressing table for years, gazed at the two of them on holiday in
Ibiza. Slim and happy. At
what point did he acquire a paunch? When did she stop noticing?
As she smeared night cream over her face and neck she thought about the occurrence downstairs when she attempted to sit on his lap. The idea was to try and regain something of their youth in the hope that it might shake off the powerful feeling that they were drifting apart. The idea was a mistake. He’d jumped like a scalded cat when her leg touched his, almost knocking her over in the rush to get away from her. These days neither of them knew how to converse when they were on their own, let alone make-up to each other.
She had to face it, as their marriage wore on Brad had become uninteresting. She wouldn’t have thought it twelve years ago, when they doted on each other’s words, when each was inspired by the other, when they couldn’t bear to be apart. As she replaced the lid on the pot of cream, she gazed again at her reflection, wondering when it all changed and if, maybe, they were at a turning point in their marriage? At least when Bridie was there she kept them going as a threesome. Angela hoped she wouldn’t stay away too often; life without Bridie’s frequent visits would be … she stopped to think would be like and came to the conclusion that the word she was looking for was dull. That was when it dawned on her that she really did miss her. She knew the path she’d stepped on was pebbly but she didn’t know how to stop the joyfulness that Bridie’s presence created.
A week later, when Bridie was out with a friend and Brad was working away, Angela tried to sort out the mess in her mind. No longer were her feelings for Brad clear. Although she thought she still loved him her feelings for Bridie were growing stronger. Without her the days would be intolerable. Hell, the idea was not to be dwelt on. If she was no longer here she would miss her companionship, her tolerance when the kids played up, her gentleness, her nearness when she stayed over, shared her bed. Oh how she longed to touch her wonderful body at those times. With a deep sigh she moved into the kitchen to start preparing supper.
Brad’s boss, Charlie Williams, sat at the head of the conference table and talked about necessary changes to the team’s way of working. If he’d been challenged the meeting might have some life in it but there was no opposition and very few questions. They were only half way through and already Brad’s mind was wandering.
The scene at home, outside the bathroom, still worried him. He was still disconcerted over the effect Bridie’s thigh had on him and the malevolence in her voice when she brushed him aside. Surely he hadn’t been totally mistaken about her. She’d seemed so eager to get acquainted when they met that first time, in the
Brighton hotel, when they’d bumped
into each other on the staircase, laughed at each other’s embarrassment. Hadn’t
she looked him right in the eye and silently spoken her interest? Hadn’t his
stomach lurched at the touch of her hand at dinner, the first time he asked her
to join him. Wasn’t there a mutual longing when they said goodnight, neither of
them really wanting the evening to end.
And what about the other times he’d been away, when she turned up unexpectedly at his hotel. Was it purely coincidental that her work programme coincided with his? She never stayed at his hotel but they always dined together before she drove home. Brad took a sip of water and remembered the toasts they made. Everlasting friendship, she’d said, her eyes gazing dreamily into his. What was a man to think when he was treated to her dazzling smile as she leaned provocatively towards him?
Squaring the spotless blotter in front of him, lining up his pens equidistant to the water glass, Brad thought about Angela and the recent change in her. She seemed to dote on Bridie. Bridie could do nothing wrong. Bridie knew this, Bridie said that. Bridie, who had invaded his home and his heart.
Noticing the way Brad fingered his pens and the occasional window gaze, Charlie Williams sarcastically pointed out that Brad’s presence really was required so perhaps he should keep his mind on his work. With an effort, Brad sat up straight and endeavoured to concentrate on proceedings.
Angela glanced at the china wall clock before stacking utensils in the dishwasher. It was
Bridie would be here soon and Angela wanted everything neat and tidy for when
she arrived. It was quite late but she thought after a boozy evening Bridie
would be glad of a bite to eat. Hurriedly she went into the lounge to draw the
bronze coloured window drapes. The ambience was good with perfumed candles
dotted around, the simulated log fire glowing in the dimmed light, and the
smell of the freshly baked scones spilling into the room. She was thankful
she’d resisted the temptation to eat earlier, by herself. Denny and Sarah
Louise had been allowed to watch a comedy show before going up to bed. It was
Angela’s hope that they were tired enough to fall straight to sleep. She wanted
Bridie to herself.
Satisfied that everything was in order, Angela went to the bedroom and changed out of her casual everyday dress. Her clothes were laid out on the bed, the new black lace underwear, black pants and low cut cream top, chosen with care in an attempt to brighten up her dreary life. Bridie was such a fashion conscious woman, she thought it was about time she made a bit more of herself. She did so want to create an impression, to eliminate those work-weary feelings that frequently enveloped her.
After slipping her bare feet into black satin mules she admired herself in the cheval mirror, making the merest adjustment to her cleavage before adding a dab of Estēe Lauder’s Sensuous. A smile spread across her face at the thought of Bridie’s reaction to the new image.
Downstairs, she stretched out on the couch, a glass of
Muscat on the coffee table at her side.
She intended to watch television until Bridie arrived, any minute now. An hour later she woke to find that she still
It was almost
midnight when she heard the key in
the door and voices in the hall. She went to investigate.
Bridie wasn’t quite as drunk as her male companion.
Angela stared in disbelief at her friend and the overweight fair haired man she was passionately embracing in HER hall. She quaked with anger. How dare she bring him here without so much as a by your leave? When Bridie opened her eyes and winked Angela’s rage boiled over. ‘Get OUT,’ she screamed as she tried to pull them apart.
‘Oh don’t be such a prude,’ Bridie retorted, scathingly. ‘Jealousy will get you nowhere.’
‘Jealous?’ screeched Angela. ‘What the hell are you talking about? You come in here dragging in some drunk off the streets and expect me to accept it?’
‘He’s NOT someone off the streets. This is Colin. As a matter of fact we just got engaged. I thought you should meet the man I’m going to marry.’
It was news to Angela. Not once had Bridie mentioned Colin, or indeed anyone else in her private life. She always seemed so … alone. She had become an inherent part of the
Wilson family, they knew everything
about her, or so they thought. Momentarily, Angela wondered if Brad knew but
somehow doubted it.
Moving away from the couple, Angela ran into the lounge, slamming the door behind her. She sank into the settee. The candles had melted down, the
was still on the coffee table. She picked up the glass, drank in two long
gulps, then leaned back and cried until she heard the click of the front door
as it closed behind Bridget O‘Shea.
It took several months of soul searching before Brad and Angela got over the loss of their mutual friend. Both realised what fools they’d been though neither admitted it to the other.
In his opinion Brad had been duped into thinking Bridie was falling for him. Only now did he realise she was a natural flirt. He was ashamed that he’d been taken in by her, his pride was hurt and he didn’t know how to cope with the humiliation. His saving grace was that Angela knew nothing about the activities that took place when he was away from home albeit that, apart from one session of ardent kissing, he and Bridie were merely friends sharing the occasional dinner.
Angela was mortified when she realised how envious she had been. Her jealousy bordered on possessiveness but she refused to admit that her feelings for Bridie O’Shea had moved to another level. She had been infatuated, that’s all. Just because she shared her bed with her didn’t mean anything other than two friends sleeping together, each one hugging the side of the bed so that they wouldn’t make contact. Angela pushed away those past longings to caress. From now on she would concentrate on Brad. Maybe if she stopped niggling over little things they would get on better. She knew she neglected him. She was hyper-critical, took no interest in his work and even accused him of having no interest in his family.
Suddenly guilt-ridden, she resolved to change. She couldn’t be described as a good wife but if she worked hard maybe they could get back on the old footing. This new resolve made her feel suddenly eager to put the relationship back on even keel. She reckoned she owed a great deal to Colin Wetherby for unwittingly saving the day, and her marriage.
Brad and Angela declined the invitation to the wedding.