Pas De Deux
Copyright© 2012 by Texrep
On Monday morning I arrived at the laboratory and went into my office to find my white coat. As if she had been waiting for me, Shelley burst in. "So, what have you got to say for yourself?"
"About what?" I enquired mildly.
"Vanishing from the reception with Miss Berwick. Henry had arranged that she sat at his table and when no one could find her he had to re-arrange things." I noted that it was the fact that Antonia being missing was cause for concern, not me. I also doubted that I would have been sitting at Henry's table.
"Antonia had a head-ache. So, just as Henry would have wanted I escorted her home."
Shelley was suspicious. "A likely story. Especially when only five minutes before she was quite happy chatting with Henry."
"It's a strong probability that chatting with Henry brought on the head-ache." I couldn't resist a little dig. Shelley smiled now.
"It's more probable that you whisked her away so that you could renew your acquaintance." She said this in a way that imbued 'renewing our acquaintance' with overtones. "Anyway, Henry wants to see you when he gets in."
"On the carpet again?"
"I expect so. Probably a spanked bottom as well."
Henry was quite happy when I saw him. Antonia had suggested that I use the head-ache excuse and had left a message on his voice mail apologising. Henry had designs on using my friendship with Antonia to seek out more donations. "Simon, one of the reasons I wanted to talk with Miss Berwick, was to ask if she would consider taking part in a charity Gala performance for us. Something I have been thinking about for some time. But with the happy circumstance of your being an old friend it may come better from you."
I thought quickly. If our possible relationship was to go anywhere, I did not want to start it by asking her for a favour. "To be honest Henry, I think that Antonia would feel under an obligation to agree if I were to ask her. She was my sisters' friend, not mine. So I would be pushing the acquaintance to its limits. Perhaps the request would be better received if you made it." Henry was disappointed but accepted my reason for refusing.
"I understand, in retrospect it probably will be better if I write to her and ask officially rather than using your acquaintance to ask favours." That was Henry all over; no one ever rejected his ideas. He would turn them round and take another tack. We talked for a while about the research. We had been examining some plants from South America which folk tales suggested could be efficacious in the treatment of osteoporosis. That was our main reason for existing, examining old wives tales and treatments with natural ingredients to see if they could be synthesised to help us in the modern world.
Later that evening I had a call from Antonia. "Did you get into trouble?"
I laughed. "Only from Shelley. Sir Henry didn't even mention it, possibly because he wants to ask a favour of you."
"Yes. He is going to write and ask if you would take part in a charity Gala he wants to organise."
"I suppose I could, depending on dates. What do you think? Should I do it?"
"It's nothing to do with me, Antonia. I told Henry that I wouldn't get involved. I didn't want to be seen as asking for favours, presuming on you after so little time."
"Presume away, Si, but I appreciate the sentiment. However what is important to me is when am I going to see you again."
"When are you free?"
"I'm in rehearsal most days and performing most evenings at the moment. I am free next Sunday if you are."
"I will make sure I am. Would you like to take the trip up river to Hampton Court?"
"Sounds good to me. Shall I meet you at Westminster Pier?"
"Good idea. Let's make it about eleven. Then we have the time to get up river and get some lunch at Hampton."
"I'm looking forward to it already. See you then."
"It's a date."
I heard her giggle down the phone. "A date with my dream man, what more could a girl ask for."
The weather Gods gave us the perfect day. A blue sky, just a gentle breeze and a beaming sun to warm the air pleasantly. Antonia was made for jeans; she was slim with a rear that must have made every other woman green with envy. Her short dark hair was simply brushed and decorated with a pair of bright yellow sunglasses that were permanently parked on top of her head, more of a fashion statement than utility. Our day was good, full of banter and conversation in equal measure. She walked close to me, her hand hovering near mine offering me the opportunity to hold should I wish. She was good company, yet I felt an inhibition. Antonia and Becky had been an indivisible couple. You saw my sister and Antonia was there beside her. I had always found it difficult to view Antonia as a person in her own right, more an extension of my sister and thus any intimacy with her would be akin to incest. There were times during the day when I forgot that and just enjoyed being with this pretty, fun girl, yet the inhibition would return from time to time.
We were boarding the boat which would take us back to Westminster when Antonia slipped on the gang plank. I instinctively grabbed her. I still held her when she turned to thank me and my hand made contact with her breast. She smiled, and then grinned. "I told you. Two or three dates before you get lucky. But thank you for helping me." She held my hand to take the last few steps boarding the boat, and wouldn't let go even as we took our seats in the Bows. She was breathing quite heavily and I thought that it was because of her slip.
"Antonia, you didn't hurt yourself?"
She had lowered her face but looked up to answer my question. She was blushing. "I'm fine." She hesitated then went on. "It's just that when you touched me it was like an electric shock. I have fantasised for years of you holding me in your arms, in my dream it was exciting, but the reality was completely overwhelming." She smiled. "Don't be angry with me Si, please? I know I am pushing things but I can't wait for you to do it again." I was not averse to that. Any man would enjoy the experience. My action had been instinctive, yet I had no sense of it being wrong. I was happy to do it again.
As the boat started its journey down river I turned Antonia on the bench we shared so that her back was to me. She relaxed as I supported her and my arms held her. She took my right hand and lifting her arm placed my hand close to her body. The invitation was obvious and as my body and her arm covered the action she guided my hand to where she wanted it. She squirmed in pleasure. "Thank you my darling. That feels wonderful."
I kissed her cheek and I explained my feelings of earlier about how I viewed Becky and her. Then I went on to say. "It doesn't feel wrong at all, actually very natural."
"Yes it does and very comforting."
We stayed like that all the way. Our heads were so close we didn't need to speak any louder than murmurs. Our talk was desultory as you would expect from two people who were old friends. Even so we arrived at Westminster Pier far more quickly than I would imagine or wanted. Antonia skipped down the gangway lithely, I smiled asking myself if her slip before was intended rather than accident, not that it mattered.
We walked up to the bridge. Antonia turned to face me as I asked if she would like to go to dinner somewhere.
"I would love to, Si. But I have to say not now. It has been a lovely day, one of the best in my life, and I would enjoy the evening just as much. But there is a distinct possibility that my hormones would overrule my head and I would ask you to take me to your home tonight, so I shall say no whilst I have control. I do want to see you again soon though."
"I want to see you again soon. Are you involved in rehearsal and performance this week?" She nodded sadly.
"Yes I'm afraid I will be." she sounded disconsolate and then suddenly brightened. "Would you like to see me dance? I can get you a ticket."
"Aren't they like gold dust?"
"Usually, but we always have complimentary tickets for important guests. Do say yes, please Si. We can meet after the performance and spend a little time together."
"What theatre and what night?" I asked.
"Thursday at the Coliseum. The performance starts at eight-thirty. Go to the ticket office and they will have the ticket with your name."
"I'll be there."
We parted then. Antonia walked away then turned back to me. With a little run she came into my arms and we kissed. This was not a kiss of passion; it was a kiss that two people who may possibly become lovers would give each other. An experimental kiss to see if emotions could be stirred, to see if the lips of their potential lover would excite, a kiss that would ask questions. The kiss answered all those questions very well.
It had been tradition to wear formal dress when attending the Ballet or the Opera, a tradition that over the last few years had waned. When we spoke on the phone I asked Antonia if I should wear a Dinner Jacket.
"Don't bother, Si. If you were in the Stalls or Dress Circle perhaps you should, but I'm afraid that the only comp ticket I could get you is in the Grand Tier. Sorry about that."
"No problem, I would rather sit there and not have to wear formal. What is the piece you are doing?"
"Are you playing Coppelia?"
"Yes and no. It depends on the choreography and interpretation, in some productions no one dances Coppelia; she is a life size wooden doll. But another character Swanilda dresses in Coppelia's clothes and dances as if she was Coppelia."
"It sounds bloody complicated. So what part are you taking?"
"I'm dancing Swanilda."
"So in effect you play both parts, Coppelia and Swanilda?"
"In this production I do. Now after the performance shall we meet? There is a little place just round the corner in William the Forth Street. It's called Greengage. We could meet there."