Shut Up and Drive!
Chapter 3: Close Encounters

Copyright© 2014 by Denham Forrest

“Teddy, although I really would like to spend the rest of my life tucked-up with you in this bed, I really do have to get back to the house today to see what sort of a disastrous mess Roger’s left the place in.” Stella grinned at him, then she leant down and kissed Ted on the nose. “I wouldn’t put it past the bastard to leave all the taps running or something equally as callous. Besides I’m sure Marie would like to get the use of her driveway back; my car’s been parked there since Saturday afternoon.”

“Hey look, kiddo. From where I’m ... lying, you’re the one who’s prolonging this encounter.” Ted smiled back up at her, totally trapped as he was beneath the new love of his life, while Stella pleasured herself with the relevant portion of his anatomy.

“Well to be honest with you, lover, I can’t believe your staying-power. How do you ... well you know? Hey, you haven’t got any of those little blue pills tucked away somewhere around here, have you?” She grinned down at him.

“Like that birth control pill you took a while back, you mean?” Ted asked. “And no, I’ve never had to resort to ... chemical assistance to hold my end up. Especially not when I’m with an enchanting female, as beautiful as you!”

However the second point Ted had made went completely over Stella’s head. His mention of the fact that he’d spotted her surreptitiously taking a birth control pill had taken Stella by surprise. She had thought she the knack doing that unnoticed by her partner down to a fine art. But then Ted and Roger were two completely different ... animals. An embarrassed expression came over Stella’s face for a few seconds, then she replied.

“Hey look, Teddy, I know you think ... Sorry, I know that I was a stuck-up bitch! But I’ve always enjoyed making love ... Well, maybe I should say, sex. Mind you, I’ve never enjoyed it as much as I have the last couple of days, that’s for damned sure. Sex with you is different somehow. Hey, I know what it is! We have been making love to each other, haven’t we?”

“Well, I’ve been making love to you, Stella; but I really can’t say for sure what is going on inside that mixed-up head of yours.”

“Ted, I’ve been making love to you as well. Possibly for the first time in my life, I’ve been thinking about what I want and not what I thought other people expected me to be. Does that make any sense?”

“Er ... no, Stella! Not to me anyway. I’ve never worried about what the rest of world thought of me, or what I do; you should have worked that one out by now. I’ve can’t recall doing anything that I feel I should be ashamed about.”

“I only wish I could say the same, Teddy; but I can’t!”

“Look kiddo, you’re kind-of losing me here.”

“I know. I’m sorry. But everything has changed so rapidly and I know I’ve got to be a different person from now on.”

Stella went quiet for a few seconds. Ted was just beginning to fear what she was going to say next, when she blurted out, “Yes, the other evening I did say that I’m going to come off my birth control pills, didn’t I? So that we can have children together. I am really looking forward to that idea. However, not just yet! To be honest with you, Teddy, I’m having far too much fun making love with you for starters. And secondly I’d rather like to get Roger completely out of the picture before I do become pregnant. I don’t trust that man as far as I can throw the bugger ... and I really can’t be sure what sort of tricks he might try to pull.

“Roger might be scared shitless of Ted Harper, Ted, but he’s going to have a very expensive legal team with him in the Divorce Court.”

Ted laughed. Wherever Stella’s mind had been going, it appeared to have returned to the here and now. i.e. The birth control pill Ted had seen her sneakily take a little earlier. Her concern about her husband’s future actions was to be expected anyway. The phrase “scared shitless” Ted figured Stella must have dragged up from her younger teenage years, Ted could not imagine that Estelle had ever used it, although he was sure that she would have heard it enough times at college.

“I was just pulling your leg, Stella, I understand. But just to put your mind at rest, I never have required artificial assistance in that department; just the right partner!” Ted laid extra emphasis on the words “right” and “partner”.

Stella smiled at the -- what she took to be a -- veiled compliment.

But then Ted asked. “You think Roger might cut-up rough over the divorce?”

“No, not the divorce itself, Teddy. But knowing Roger as well as I do, he will be particularly difficult ... obtuse, over the division of our joint assets. What there is of them.”

“Obtuse?” Ted queried, a sarcastic smile on his face.

Stella, ignored the obvious jibe.

“It’s going to be a really bloody battle, that’s for sure.” She went on, “You see, Ted, unfortunately ... mummy, gifted me some of her holdings in my father’s companies as a wedding present.”

“Just your mother’s holdings?” Ted asked, mentally kicking himself because his knee-jerk joke comment, was supposed to have been humorously sarcastic, like the previous one. However he realised that it hinted of something else.

Ted was finding old habits died hard and he still wasn’t completely sure that Estelle would not take umbrage at anything he said. But Stella ignored any possible innuendo buried within the comment and continued.

“Oh yes, my father isn’t silly. As he implied yesterday, daddy was never enamoured with the idea of me marrying Roger Cooper in the first place. In consequence, he was markedly less than generous with his wedding gifts. I’m in my father’s will of course, but he has everything tightly sown-up in complicated trusts and things, so that there was no chance that Roger would ever have got his hands on any of it ... whatever happened.

“And then there’s my own business of course; but I believe that Mr Goldman has that tied up very nicely; even though I’m not completely sure how. Mr Goldman has never been a member of Roger’s fan club either.”

That was a surprise for Ted; he’d always assumed that Stella ... or Estelle anyway, would have been a stay-at-home prima donna type wife to Roger Cooper.

“Your business?” He asked, a quizzical tone to his voice. “I had no idea that you went out to work, Stella.”

“Ah now, I wouldn’t exactly call it work, Teddy; more like a sort of hobby. I have a little company that ... Well, actually we don’t really do anything of substance. My staff, sort of sit-in the middle between some of daddy’s companies and a few of their contractors. My father set the organisation up for me. What it did do, was to allow my father to assure himself in his own mind, that I would ... or could, be financially independent of Roger Cooper, should the need ever arise. Daddy must always have known that I’d come to my senses eventually.”

“Come to your senses? Is that what you’ve done?” Ted commented.

Stella wriggled her posterior around on Ted’s nether regions and smiled down at him. Technically -- probably better described as ‘physically’ -- they were still coupled.

“I sure have, lover, in more ways than I’d have ever thought possible. God you do feel good.” Stella wriggled again and winked at him. “Anyway I have an office in town and a dozen or so staff, who ... jump to it whenever I walk through the door. Actually, most of the time, I do very little but lord it over them.” Stella’s facial expression suddenly changed to one of concern. “Bugger Ted, what am I going to do about that? Those people must hate me!”

Ted laughed again. “Stella, I very much doubt that they hate you. It’s probably Estelle Cooper they dislike so much, and who can blame them?” It was Ted’s turn to wink at Stella. “Now, as you’ve brought the subject up, I’m assuming that later today, once you get around to finishing what you’ve got started here, popped home to check that the house is still standing and collected your car from Marie’s house ... possibly not in that order ... you’re going to put in an appearance at said office.”

“Yes, I...” Stella stopped speaking and smiled down at Ted. “Usually Estelle spends a couple of hours there ... tormenting them all, about three days a week.”

“Well give ‘em the same bloody surprise you treated your father to yesterday, girl.”

For some inexplicable reason Stella found it pleasant when Ted addressed her as ‘girl!’ Not so many days previous it would have provoked a verbal tirade.

“All you’ve got to do is not let Estelle Cooper anywhere near that office again. Send Stella ... or even Topsy Warender through the door.”

As Ted had been speaking, the same realisation had crept into Stella’s mind. Albeit she wasn’t too sure she could carry it off without a little friendly back-up. Whatever Ted’s words brought an even bigger smile to her face.

“Topsy Harper sounds much better idea to me, lover,” she replied. “Still, it’s a little early for the name change yet. But that is a very good idea; I’ll have to give it a try. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll get back to the more serious business at hand?”

“Whatever you wish, Stella. But I have to warn you, I do have a client who’s supposed to be calling-in here around ten this morning.”

Stella looked at the clock, frowned, then shrugged her shoulders before leaning down and kissing Ted on the lips again. Then she got back to what she had been doing before her confused thought processes had interrupted her.

It took Stella and Ted far longer to get to the shower that morning than either of them had envisioned it would.

Ted was just beginning to realise that Stella was experimenting (sexually) and appeared to be trying-out almost anything and everything he’d ever thought of ... and some that he hadn’t. Ted was beginning to wonder just how far Stella was intending to take things; however he was not about to complain.

Stella was forced to take a taxi to her friend Marie’s house. She’d lingered far too long, enjoying herself, and Ted’s client was due to arrive almost before she was ready to leave.

Stella and Marie

As Stella arrived in her taxi, Marie was in the process of returning home, having completed a little shopping after dropping her children at school. Marie wasn’t surprised to see her; she knew that eventually Estelle would have to pick-up her car. It was Estelle’s dress and demeanour that surprised and confused Marie.

The old - very snug fitting - jeans she had struggled into the previous day, added to her recent overindulgence in certain gymnastic type activates, had precluded Stella wearing them again so soon. Instead she was dressed in a pair of Ted’s jeans, one of his tee-shirts and her old trainers. Although her innate poise made Stella look surprisingly presentable, Marie couldn’t equate Stella’s attire with the Estelle she’d become to know so well in recent years.

Marie and Stella had known each other since their nursery school days. They had been best friends and all-but devoted to each other all during their infant and junior school years. However in their latter senior school days, that closeness had begun to wane. Basically due to the fact that, as her god-given assets began to exert themselves, Marie’s great friend Stell began to morph into the self-assured and extremely self-centred Estelle, who did not really require friends. Well, not close friends anyway.

The two women had remained on amicable terms with each other; some would have described them as close friends. Marie had even served as matron of honour at Estelle’s wedding. However they had no longer been ‘bosom buddies’ since sometime during their mid-teens.

Marie had been quite taken aback the previous Saturday afternoon, when Estelle had unexpectedly arrived at her door and announced that she intended to stash her car there for the evening.

As they sat down for a quick coffee in her kitchen that Tuesday morning, Marie began to note that there was something else very different about Estelle, besides her outlandish dress.

Marie had been aware of an ... inconsistency in Estelle’s demeanour on Sunday afternoon, when she had given Marie a brief outline of Saturday evening’s debacle. Marie had of course realised that something about her old ... acquaintance was different then, but -- possibly owing to the excitement in Estelle’s voice and her somewhat confusing demeanour -- Marie had utterly failed to understand what that difference actually was.

Had anyone asked Marie on that Sunday evening, after she’d watched the infamous Ted Harper drive Estelle away -- and had Marie chosen to be honest in her reply -- Marie would have said that she believed that Estelle was still very much the worse for alcohol. Although even that was unusual for Estelle. To Marie’s knowledge Estelle never got drunk; habitually she was always in control of every situation.

Marie had been somewhat concerned. She’d attempted to telephone Estelle’s house on numerous occasions that same evening and again several times on the Monday. But she had received no reply. Marie had even tried to call Estelle’s mobile telephone a few times, but -- as was usual -- it had instantly gone to the her messaging service.

It was common knowledge that Estelle disliked being disturbed by her mobile telephone and habitually left its ring function turned off.

Ever since she’d got her first mobile telephone many years before, Estelle’s unspoken, but well understood policy had always been that it was Estelle who called to ask other people for assistance; other people did not call or request assistance from Estelle! The device served no other purpose in Estelle’s existence.

Marie sat in stunned silence as Stella related the story of her arrival back at her own house on Sunday afternoon, and how the sight of Ted Harper had apparently scared the living daylights out of Roger Cooper. Stella explained the actual confrontation to Marie in far greater detail than has been related here, earlier.

And then Stella went on to describe the rest of the intervening period of time to Marie. She used as much innuendo and euphemism as was humanly possible, but still with a marked frankness that shocked Marie. That explanation left Marie in no doubt as to what had occurred since the two women had last spoken on her doorstep.

It was only when Marie realised that her visitor was procrastinating -- delaying her departure -- that Marie began to understand that it was not the self-assured Estelle she’d grown so used to sitting opposite her. What she was observing was a sudden reincarnation of her old friend Stella, she recalled from their younger days.

“Stella, what’s happened to you?” Marie suddenly blurted out.

Marie was one of the few people who had always addressed Estelle as Stella (to her face), and been permitted to get away with it.

Stella chuckled. “I’ve fallen in love, Marie; does it show that much?” “With Ted Harper? Surely not ... You always said...”

“I was wrong, Marie!” Stella interrupted. “Bloody-hell Marie, I’ve been wrong about everything, haven’t I? Ted’s a wonderful person. He might be a little rough around the edges, and he likes to put on that tough-guy persona. But I’ve never come across a more considerate ... lover, in my whole life. And as an artist he’d a ruddy genius. God, you should see all those wonderful pictures he’s painted of me over the years ... all without me ever realising that he was even attracted to me.”

“Come off it, Stella? I was there when you told Ted to get lost at college!”

“Yes, I know I did. But I thought that he was after what all those creeps were after ... to get into my knickers. God, it was like there was a sweepstake running on which one of those losers was going to score first.”

“There was!” Marie replied with a grin. “But the bet had nothing to do with who could get Estelle Warender into bed. All the winner had to do was, talk you into letting them take you out on a date.”

A confused expression came over Stella’s face

“You are joking!”

“No, it’s the truth, Stella. I have no idea how much cash was involved. But to win the pot, all a guy had to do was be seen to take you out on a proper date. I don’t think it even mattered where they took you, as long as it was to a public event where you’d be seen together. Oh, but you have to be at least holding the guys arm. You being witnessed kissing the guy, or letting him kiss you, would have been a bonus, and certainly proof positive. Apparently there was some innuendo that you might have been ... gay at one time.”

Marie half expected an explosion from Estelle at this point, but it failed to materialise; so she continued.

“My ex told me all about it on our honeymoon. Actually some of his friends were still in the sweepstake. They were more than a little peeved that you were a no-show at our wedding.”

“I was in California with my parents, Marie. You know that I couldn’t turn down a trip like that, we discussed it at the time.” Stella said apologetically, “But if that’s true, I wonder if... ?”

“No, he wasn’t, Stella! Ted Harper wasn’t a party to that syndicate; that kind of behaviour was beneath him. Anyway, he wasn’t trying to ask you to go out with him that day either! Not that you gave him the opportunity to ask you anything really. What Ted was trying to do was invite you to sit for a portrait.”

“How would you know that?” Stella demanded, just a hint of Estelle returning to her voice.

Marie fixed Stella with a firm stare.

“Stella, somewhere along the line you developed the annoying habit of selective hearing. You were so busy coming-up with your snazzy putdown for Teddy Harper that you didn’t actually listen to a word he said to you that day.

“However, Sarah Bishop was listening when Ted was asked her, and we all know where she ended up, don’t we? I believe that she even resides in California full-time, now!”

Sarah Bishop had always been Estelle’s great rival in the “most beautiful/popular female student in the college” stakes. Estelle had not even wished to be on “the most popular female student” list. However coming second -- in her own mind -- to Sarah Bishop in anything, had always irked Estelle.

Especially considering that since leaving college, Sarah Bishop had become a well known Model and actress, appeared in numerous feature films, and by that time was starring in a very popular -- somewhat corny, but long running -- American TV drama series.

Stella sat staring at Marie, she didn’t have to ask the question, it was in her eyes.

“Ted Harper entered that portrait of Sarah into some competition or the other, and reputedly it won.” Marie explained. “Rumour has it that one of the judges just happened to be some fancy American movie producer bloke, or something along those lines anyway ... or it’s possible he might have just seen the painting in the exhibition. Whatever, the guy took a fancy to that painting, and it’s subject it would seem. I believe the guy even bought the thing after the competition was over. From there, our Sarah suddenly found herself a rising film starlet. Just think, Stella, had you bothered to listen to what Ted was saying to you that day, that might have been you.”

“Damn!” Stella replied. “Hey, not that I’d want to be a film star or anything like that ... I don’t believe. But if I had sat for that picture, I damn-well would never have married that idiot Roger Cooper.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Damn sure, Marie; once you get to know Ted Harper ... Well, he somehow gets to you, if you know what I mean?”

“Stella, some of us didn’t get the chance to get to know Ted Harper, although we tried as hard as we could to ... attract his attention.”

“Were you sweet on Ted at college, Marie?”

“Bloody-hell, Stella, the only girl I knew in that whole damned college that didn’t have designs on Ted Harper was Estelle Warender. I should think Sarah Bishop thought all her Christmases had come at once when she heard you turning down Ted’s request that day.

“Anyway, Estelle Warender didn’t need anyone back then, but I get the feeling that Stella Cooper needs something now, So what is it Stella?”

“Am I being that obvious?”

“You were, Stella. You’ve been procrastinating ever since you walked through that door. Estelle Cooper doesn’t delay; she comes right-out and tells people what she expects them to do. That assures me that something very serious has happened to your personality in the last few days. You appear to have turned back into the human being I remember from school. So come on, spit it out; tell me what is it you want me to do?”

“I’ve got to go back to the house, Marie, and I’m worried that Roger might still be there.”

“And Ted?”

“Oh god, he’d come without a second thought, but he’s got an appointment with a client this morning. To be honest with you, Marie; Ted hasn’t been able to do a stroke of work since ... Well, when I’m there with him, we tend to ... Oh, you know what I mean?”

Marie giggled, “Ah still enjoying the first flush, are we? But surely you’re jumping the gun a little, Stella. You’re not even divorced yet!”

“Marie, I’m making hay while the sun shines. I understand that I’ve been behaving like an ... obnoxious bitch for years now, and I just can’t believe that Ted is giving me a second chance. I don’t know how long it’s going to be before he gets tired of me, but I won’t hold any grudges when he does. But in the meantime ... while the going’s good ... I intend to extract every ounce of enjoyment I can from the situation.”

“Stella, you’re not playing silly-buggers with Ted’s emotions, are you?” Marie demanded. “Because if you are, you’ll be sorry, girl; I promise you!”

“Hey no, Marie. I’m in love with Ted ... I think. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt him emotionally. I just can’t bring myself to accept that. Oh Christ, Marie! I’ve been such a bitch to everyone all of my life ... even to you. Why should you, Ted or anyone want to be nice to me now?”

“Basically, because we all knew that Stella was still hiding inside that mixed-up head of yours somewhere, hidden behind Estelle Warender. Even as the bitch, you did some pretty nice things, you know. The women’s lib stance you took in college certainly made a lot of the bigots sit up and listen. Actually you achieved some things that only a bitch like Estelle could have achieved.”

Although neither could recall how the situation came about, both women were standing and hugging each other.

“Come on,” Marie said, “let’s go and see if dumb-nuts has burnt your bloody house down?”

“Dumb-nuts?” Stella repeated.

“Yeah dumb-nuts, Stella. That was his name amongst the girls at college, either that or Octopus. Oh, and you remember that first date you went on with him?”

“Well, it wasn’t so much a date, Marie. He took me to a university football match.”

“And won him that bloody sweepstake pot, or so I’m assured. I should imagine that windfall paid for the second date he took you on!”

Stella didn’t reply. She was totally convinced that Marie was speaking the truth. The scenario would fit Roger Cooper’s personality to a tee.

Stella and Angela

They drove over to Stella’s home in Marie’s car. Marie suggesting that, should Roger still be at the house, he wouldn’t be aware of their arrival. In fact, Marie thought that Stella was in no fit mental condition to drive herself.

However Stella calmed down considerably when they saw that Roger Cooper’s car was not parked in the drive.

What was parked there was a small white van with the words ‘Night Security Patrol” written on the side. Stella recognised the van as belonging to one of her father’s companies. A young man dressed in a cursory uniform got out of the van and approached them as the two women climbed out of Marie’s car.

He greeted them with the words. “Mrs Cooper?”

It wasn’t really a question, the young man knew exactly who Stella was. In fact he was requesting permission to speak.

“Yes.” Stella replied.

“Your husband has left, madam. There’s a lady inside from your father’s office; she will be able to explain everything,” the young man said, gesturing toward the path that led to the rear door. Then he retreated and got back into his little van as quickly as he could.

Entering by the kitchen door, Stella found Angela -- one of her father’s younger PA’s -- sitting in the kitchen reading a book. On the table before her were two empty mugs.

Angela had been charged by Stella’s father with tidying up and guarding the inside of the house, while Greg (the security man) had been dispatched to guard the outside of the building. Greg’s presence was designed to deter Roger Cooper (or anyone else) from returning to the empty property.

Taken by surprise, Angela almost leapt to her feet when she became aware that Stella and Marie were entering the kitchen. “Good morning, Estelle,” Angela said, grabbing the mugs from the table and hurriedly beginning to wash them up. “I didn’t hear you arrive.”

“Hi Angela, how long have you been here?” Stella asked, in a cordial tone that surprised Angela.

“Um, since about eight this morning, Estelle. Your neighbour called the office yesterday afternoon and informed us that your husband had left the house wide open. I called your father and met him here. It seems that your father did not wish to disturb you yesterday. It was quite a mess in here, but we cleared up most of it last night.”

Although she was itching to know the details, Angela did not dare ask Estelle what had occurred. She’d guessed that Estelle’s marriage was over, and hadn’t even dared to ask Norman Warender for an explanation.

“Your father had the security company station a man outside to keep an eye on things overnight, Mrs Cooper. Then he asked me to wait here today until you arrived. I made Gregory some coffee, I hope that was all right?”

Marie had watched the obviously nervous Angela gush out the hurried explanation of her presence. Marie had seated herself in one of the chairs by the table, where she sat with a silly expression on her face, repeatedly looking from Angela to Stella and back again.

Stella nodded at Angela then glanced around the room before heading off, obviously on a hurried tour of inspection of the house. She returned, remarkably quickly.

“Everything seems to pass muster okay, Angie; thank you very much,” Stella said with a smile. “It would appear that you put everything back where it logically should go.”

“I did the best I could, Estelle. Someone threw all your lovely clothes all over the place,” Angela replied nervously.

It was patently clear to Marie that Angela was frightened stiff of her boss’ daughter, and she was fascinated to see how Stella was going to handle the situation. What made it even more interesting for Marie was the fact that she knew that Stella was aware of both aforementioned points.

An ominous silence remained in the room while Stella worked out in her own mind what she should do. Then Ted’s words popped into her mind.

“Angie, would you kindly do me a service, please?” she asked in as gentle a tone of voice as she could muster.

Fearing what Estelle was going to ask, Angela nodded in reply.

“From now on, Angela, I’m Stella, and I can assure you that I no longer bite. In fact, in the future if I...” Stella had to stop to think of the right words to use. “Come on a little too strong or all self-righteous on you, you have carte blanche to tell me to ... eff-off! And there’ll be no comebacks resulting from you doing so; that I will promise you! Marie here will be our witness to what I’ve just told you.”

Angela stared back at her boss’s daughter, struggling to comprehend what she had just said to her.

“What Stella is trying to tell you, Angela,” Marie tried to interpret, “is that the pain in the arse Estelle Cooper is no more. This lady here is Stella Warender ... soon to be Stella Harper as I understand it, and you might be surprised to learn that she’s a very nice person. I know, I went to school with her.”

Confused, Angela looked between the two women, as she continued to struggle to comprehend what was happening.

The best Angela could come up with in reply was, “I, er!”

While Norman Warender had always been a great boss and employer to Angela, she had experienced issues with Mrs Warender, over the years -- as she’d had with Estelle on occasion as well. Those experiences had taught her to use a healthy helping of discretion around the female members of the Warender clan.

“Angela, I apologise for all the thoughtless things I’ve said to you in the past. I can promise that will never happen again.

“Thoughtless. I somehow doubt that!” Marie added, in jest. “As I recall, Estelle worked very hard on her insults.”

“You’re not making this any easier, Marie!” Stella commented.

“Hey kid, I’m not here to make this any easier for you, Stella. By the look on Angela’s face, you’ve got a mighty big portion of humble pie to eat. What did she call you, Angela?”

To this day Angela cannot explain why she answered Marie’s question so bluntly.

“Um well, a precocious schoolgirl, the first week I started with the company. And she told me that my skirts were too short.”

“See I didn’t work as hard at being nasty as you claim, Marie.” Stella grinned. “Actually I probably meant to call you a salacious little tart that day, Angela; that’s far more insulting isn’t it? But I apologise to you again, Angela. In my ... Estelle’s defence,” Stella smiled at Marie, “I ... Estelle was extremely jealous of you. You are extremely pretty and your legs are far better than mine. And ... Well, I was the one who was supposed to ... Oh, blimey know what I mean. But I can promise you, Angela, that I will never, ever again say anything nasty, derogatory or be disrespectful to you in the future. Will you please forgive me my crass ignorance and stupidity in the past?”

Angela sank back into the chair she’d been occupying before Stella and Marie entered the kitchen and looked at Marie again, hoping for some kind of an explanation.

Marie read Angela’s expression correctly.

“She claims that she’s fallen in love with Ted Harper.” Marie explained. “Personally I think she’s completely lost her marbles. Whatever, this incarnation has gotta be better than that sodding Estelle front she’s been putting on for years.”

“The artist bloke?” Angela asked.

“That’s the guy. Apparently he’s not only swept Stella off her feet ... and out of her knickers.” Marie threw another sarcastic smile at Stella. Who -- much to Angela’s amazement -- failed to react in anyway, if one ignores the silly face Stella pulled back at Marie. “But he’s also swept that bitch Estelle right off the face of the earth,” Marie continued.

“No wonder her husband was so pissed-off. He made a right mess of this place yesterday!” Angela commented, without really thinking.

Stella picked up the kettle and began filling it. Instinctively Angela went to stand, with intention of taking over the task. But Stella signalled her to remain seated.

“I wonder if ... what’s-’is-name, that lad outside, would like another cup of coffee?” Stella said.

“Greg,” Angela replied, “I’ll go and ask him.”

“No you won’t, Angie; I will go! Unlike everyone else around here, I need to practice at being pleasant, polite and civil to people.” Stella said with a smile, then disappeared through the door.

Angela was left staring at the empty doorway. “Oh my!” She commented.

“Yeah, scary, isn’t it?” Marie grinned back at her. “But I do believe that this Stella is going to be with us for a very long time. Teddy Harper has had a thing going for her, ever since I’ve known the bloke, and she’s ... Well, something gave her one almighty kick up the bum over the weekend. As far as I can see, it can only have been Ted Harper.”

“I wonder what are the girls in her office going to make of the new Estelle,” Angela pondered, unintentionally out loud.

“Do you know them?” Marie asked

“Yes, some on them. Well, just to talk to on the telephone. They all claim that Estelle’s a real harridan to work for,” Angela replied.

“Should be interesting then,” Marie grinned. “I think we’re going there next. Do you want to come along and watch the fun?”

Angela smiled. “You know, I do believe I would. But I think I’d better get back to the Office. I’m sure there’s lots of work piling up back there for me.”

“Norman’s a pile of fun. He’ll excuse your absence for a few more hours, I’m sure. Just tell him Marie ... and Stella insisted you came with us.”

“You know Mr Warender?” Angela asked.

“Probably better than most people, Angela. Stella and I grew up together. We were like sisters for donkey’s years. We were round each other’s houses all the time while we were at school. Uncle Norm wasn’t far short of a surrogate father to me. But then Stella morphed into that bitch Estelle, we’ve all grown to know too well. It happened very suddenly, you know -- just after we hit puberty. In a matter of months my one-time good friend changed into that selfish cow Estelle. As her boobs grew larger, so did her ego. Hi, Stella.”

Marie felt slightly embarrassed as she pondered whether Stella had overheard any part of what she had just said. But then a smile came over her face as she realised that she didn’t particularly care if Stella had. Stella wouldn’t mind anyway and would take it as a hoot.

Stella, led the bewildered looking security guy (Greg) into the kitchen. Invited him to take a seat and then set about making coffee for all four of them.

Gregory felt self-conscious and wondered what the boss’ daughter had planned for him. The lad had never experienced a personal encounter with Estelle Cooper before, but he had he had heard lurid tales concerning the Witch. In fact he was having some difficulty in equating the pleasant, apparently extremely affable and undeniable attractive lady he’d met that morning with any of those descriptions/warnings, he’d been in receipt of in the past.

Greg was more concerned about the position he found himself in that day, than he had been about some of encounters he’d experienced with a few of the districts ne’er-do-wells, while out on his usual night patrols of the affluent areas of the town.

Marie and Angela sat there looking between Greg and each other, with silly smiles on their faces. That fact added to Greg’s confusion, and made him feel even more concerned.

To be more precise, Marie had sensed a certain embarrassment in the young Angela’s facial expression, and she read into it a certain something. The smiles she was throwing at Angela were intended more of a tease to let the girl know that Marie was aware that she had sensed a mutual attraction between the two youngsters.

Greg had been quite ... taken with the pretty Angela when he’d seen Mr Warender drop her off at the house that morning. Shortly after, he’d been pleasantly surprised when the attractive young woman had invited him inside for coffee. He’d even dared to believe that he might be making some headway while they sat and talked, whilst they drank said coffee. (Come on, you were young once, so you know exactly what the handsome lad was contemplating).

That first coffee had been followed by a second an hour or so later, during the consumption of which Greg had assured himself that Angela might possibly find him attractive, even if only slightly. Greg had thought that Angela was giving out all the right vibes anyway.

The lad had been sitting in his van trying to think of the correct approach to use to ask Angela out on a date, when he became aware that Estelle Warender was climbing out of a car that had just pulled up by the curb.

Although he had never encountered the woman in person, Greg had instantly recognised Estelle for who she was. There were photographs of the family plastered all over the walls of Mr Warender’s office and company boardroom. On occasions, Greg had patrolled those offices during the night and over weekends.

It had been a very cautious Gregory, who -- trying to look and sound as efficient as possible -- had snapped to attention and reported to Estelle when she first arrived home. And Greg was feeling more than a little concerned when she’d reappeared and cordially invited him inside for coffee.

Well, from what Greg had been assured, let’s put it bluntly, Greg was kind of wondering whether he’d said anything he should not have done, to the apparently pleasant Angela. With a reputation like Estelle Warender (or Cooper as she’d become), everyone knew that she still remained “the boss’ daughter” when it came to how the staff behaved in her presence. The unexpected affability could well be the calm before the storm, designed to put Greg off of his guard and instil a false sense of security in him.

Stella, having poured the coffees, transferred them to the table and then went to sit herself. But she halted while still only half-seated, Stella’s eye’s had fallen on the embarrassed expressions on the two youngsters’ faces.

Stella failed to understand that Greg’s expression wasn’t caused so much by the embarrassment, but concern that he was about to get his short and curlies chewed off. (We’re not talking in the literal sense here, by the way!) However, Stella had recognised the underlying attraction the two youngsters felt towards each other, even if Gregory was fearing that he was about to lose his job.

“Oh my, that’s a surprise!” Stella said, looking at Marie.

Marie grinned back at her. “Yeah, ain’t it? What you going to do about it, Stella?”

“Well aren’t they... ?” Stella asked

“First time they’ve ever run into each other, today, as I understand it,” Marie, grinned back at her.

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