“Darling! I’m almost done changing! Don’t keep me waiting!”
“I know how much you PREFER to be kept waiting on Wednesday nights, dearest! But I’m almost done searching; be up in a moment!”
It would be wise to tell her to be more careful and not shout anything while I’m still looking for stragglers or intruders, but why cause any sort of ill will on what is supposed to be a stress-relieving night? The entire mansion sans the main foyer has proven clear thus far anyway.
I am Joe Bloggs, vice president of Old Rush Inc., a small copper mining company. My wife is Beatrice Dodd, a celebrated philanthropist and investor in the healthcare industry. As the third lord and lady in the thirteen-hundred year old and three generation line of Dodd, there are certain expectations and traditions for us to uphold. Said customs mainly involve not besmirching the family name through rigid, tactful, elegant, and unending proper conduct. Supposedly our behaviour is unchanging in the eyes of our servants, guests, and hosts, but in the words of one my younger business partners at his last party, “Ha ha ha, yea-no.” Dear Beatrice and I are just very good at keeping one particular secret.
The servants have all retired early to their quarters in the south of the Dodd grounds and sweeps of the mansion with magical baubles have revealed no cheshire paparazzi or nightmares hiding in the bushes. Blasted teleporters and mind invaders. My wife and I are officially the only two souls left in the building.
There is no grace in my stampede up the stairs, nor do I care about the antiques lining the hallway I jog through. Soon there is only a single oak door leading to the master bedroom separates me from dear Beatrice.
Knock, knock. … … No answer. Good. She’s ready then.
I gently turn the knob and push the door open just enough to slide in sideways, trying to be as quiet as possible. The lights are off and I almost tangle and trip in a rustling pile that can only be my wife’s discarded dress. Lucky it wasn’t the hairpins- Oh good, where are the pokey little things then? Bending down to pick up the offending cloth and closing the door simultaneously, the final clack of the knob is… liberating. Finally, good freaking night to formality and a fine how-do-you-do to HoneyBea over on the far end of the room.
“Come on, HoneyBea, it’s not THAT bad is it?”
The lights reveal and bother my lounge chair bound wife, her head hiding somewhere between a satin cushion and some sort of enormous sprawling mop that could be mistaken for gray-blonde hair. The rest of her is lying like a sack of potatoes that burst and spread out in as many directions as possible.
Gray hoodie. Matching sweatpants. Half a blanket over her. Bare foot (well, feet, but one’s not going berserk) throwing a tantrum as the rest of her lies limp. Yep. That’s the dull platinum skinned star of my life. My wife, Beatrice Dodd of the illustrious wight species. She’d be disciplined harshly if her mother or grandmother could see her now, but they aren’t. Yay.
“Come on, HoneyBea, just help me figure out what we’re snacking on and watching tonight and then I’ll turn the lights off.”
Her leg keeps slapping the chaise at a machine gun pace while I hang up her crumpled dress in the wardrobe. The path of hairpins and nylons leading up to her can wait. I wonder, did she just grab her sweats from the chair’s hidden compartment and change on the spot?
I sigh and sit down on the edge of the chaise next to her, a tired smile on my face. My hand creeps under her hoodie, lifting it as little as possible while rubbing small circles around her lower back. HoneyBea immediately stops bapping, trying to soak in the massage. Always so tense down there, like guitar strings. Constant dinner parties and galas will do that to almost anyone I figure. A muffled but relieved hum escapes from the pacified mop-head-thing-wife that makes me forget my own aches and soreness as I start playing twenty questions with her.
“Nachos?” … … … Thwap.
She likes to take her time with this usually, given how infrequently this night comes along. Also, that slower and gentler flap of her leg means no.
“Cookies?” … Thwap. “Popcorn?” Thwap. “Cereal with marshmallows with all the cereal picked out?” Thwap. “Okay… … Macaroni and cheese?” … Thwap thwap.
And we have a yes. Next!
“Mystery?” Thwap. “Horror?” … Thwap thwap.
“Bea, hun? I didn’t catch that.”
“Mo. Ma. Vi. Ahs.”
“Oh, ‘no lamias,’ you said. Was ‘Jawbreakers’ last week too much for you?” I really can’t resist getting in a jab when so few horror flicks make her jump.
Oooooooh, crossed a line there. I try to make up for it by staying silent for a few minutes, just the sound of my fingers gently rubbing her skin in the air with the occasional muffled feminine hum.
Eventually, I stop rubbing her back to an almost inaudible murmur of protest, but we both know that our ‘shame’ food won’t cook itself. Rising up, I’m almost stepping away when something- no, a spectral claw rising up from her left shoulder- snags my shirt’s collar. Meanwhile, Bea’s answering leg is-
-Throwing a tantrum again. Wh- Oh, right.
“Don’t worry, don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten, HoneyBea.” Okay, I did forget, but passing it off as teasing is easy enough. Usually.
I crouch beside Bea’s half-buried head and brush away the hair in front of her face. A single red eye glares at me, but a cheeky smile is pasted on her face too. We kiss like I’m about to leave the country forever, mostly because her still present spectral claw is preventing me from moving. Can’t complain. But again, our ‘shame’ food isn’t going to cook itself.
When her ghostly appendage finally disappears, I push away the hair around her ear and lean in to whisper, “Come down when you’re ready, HoneyBea. Relax.”
Bea doesn’t make a single noise in response, but there’s a content smile on her face when I rise and it’s pleasing warmth stays on my backside even after I turn the lights off and exit.
Two floors down, we keep a secret pantry in the wine cellar. Just need to grab at the edges of the only spot without a rock inside it and pull, sliding the thing open and exposing the junky contents within. Crackers, canned fruit, cookies, and the like line a space as wide as my outstretched arms and as deep as a medicine cabinet. Thank you for organizing this so well, Bea, even if we do only stock this every four months.
I promised Bea I’d finally get that freezer set up after reading more of those DIY Electrician books. We really should call that Walter fellow she knows though, I’m sure he can be trusted with this particular secret of ours.
A half hour, a boiling pot of water, and some very careful disposal of packaging later, the sound of Bea’s bare feet lightly slapping the kitchen floor is right behind me. After so many years of Wednesdays, her appearance is crystal clear in my mind. Some of Bea’s curves still show underneath the sweats, especially around her hips where the pants hang instead of at the waist. She’s never bothered to lift them up, liking the feeling of the cuffs brushing the top her toes while walking and relying on the hoodie to keep her otherwise exposed waist warm.
“Did you enjoy your nothing, HoneyBea?” I don’t turn around, busy slowly scooping some of the cheap cheese and pasta into a bowl that is far too good for it (silver and engraved with flowers with three little tapered legs for balance).
“A lot,” she says with a pleased sigh. “Please, lie with me next time. You’re sooo much better than a blanket and sweats. We can just have a bag of chips for the movie.”
“Or five. And I’m much heavier than a blanket, hon.” Bea presses herself against me, physical arms tightly hug my waist as her spectral ones reach through me to grab the pot. There’s a pleasant electric tingle in my arms and her prodigious cotton-covered chest digs into my back as her hips rub against my buttocks, but it’s nothing that will change this mostly non-physical night.
“You’re never too heavy for me,” she teases before giving my neck a firm lingering lick. And then she’s walking away, the still warm pot with her portion lifted over our heads. “Where’s the ketchup?”
“In the fridge. It’s on top of the DVDs and spoons.”
“So you wouldn’t forget and have to come back down?”
“So I wouldn’t forget and have to come back down, yes. No lamias.”
““No lamias,” Bea confirms with a quiet cheer, pot in one spectral hand and balancing the small pile from the fridge on the other.
“This isn’t going to affect your meeting with the St. Reader hospital director on Friday, is it, hon?”
“Of course not. By the way, you haven’t been getting enough exercise recently.” Her flat tone makes me wary with both fear and anticipation. I pushed Bea too far. She only says that phrase when planning petty revenge. By petty revenge, I mean she’s going to dip one of her claws under my skin and drag it ‘round and ‘round and ‘round until we start fornicating to the point of me passing out. Bea wouldn’t EVER try that tonight, but this means I have to tease her as much as I can before I’m made to pounce her.
“And you’ve been eating too much. We don’t have any nachos left and the head chef is wondering where the shredded cheese we had to ‘borrow’ went,” I say with a smirk as we walk back to the master bedroom, my wife leading the way.
Bea spins around to address me, her frizzy, overly wide mockery of the high ponytail so common among wights swinging wildly. “That was two weeks ago! It isn’t something worth remembering.” And now she’s walking backwards up the stairs.
“Do be careful going up, HoneyBea- Also, three plates worth were missing.”
“Again, not something worth remembering. We worked off the ‘physical evidence’ a few days after, didn’t we?” Bea says with a sultry tone and a sly look.
“Sex isn’t proper exercise and your mother asked me if you’d gained weight during her last visit.”
We go back and forth, squabbling as much as developing cover stories until we lock ourselves in our private sanctuary. The sweats she’s wearing and the horrendous state of her hair make me dare wonder for the umpteenth time if our own servants would think their mistress to be some sort of trespasser. Then I see her flop down on our bed before watching her spectral arms blast a quarter of the ketchup bottle into the pot. Yep, our servants would definitely kick her out. And if they don’t consider doing so at first, I’m sure they will after picking up the the DVDs HoneyBea dropped on the floor.
Opposite our bed, hanging on the wall, is a fine landscape painting of the Northwest’s Pigs’ Trough Valley. Attached to it’s backside, or rather the section of wall it hangs from, is a forty-inch TV. I just need to rap the frame thrice and with a mechanical buzz, it rotates into place. Underneath that, a small section of wall slides away to reveal the hidden DVD player and a remote that I snatch.
“What are we starting with?” HoneyBea is sitting cross-legged with her legs wrapped around the pot, jamming a spoonful of cheesy goodness in her mouth. And here I am trying to do everything with a bowl of ‘shame’ in one hand. Successfully, granted, but popping open a DVD case on the floor by wedging my free fingers and a toe into the crack isn’t ideal.
“The Ferryman’s Comedy Routine.”
“That doesn’t sound very horrific.”
“I rented it on the employee’s recommendation, HoneyBea. All he said was that it’ll make you want to turn it off.”
“We’re all ready then?”
“Almost, would you mind, hon?”
My wife scoots over and backwards, putting her pot of macaroni on the ground before quickly propping up our pillows to lay against. Just as quickly, the pot goes on top of her laid flat belly.
Swallow our ‘shame’ and touch our toes against each other for six hours.
We clean up carefully. HoneyBea knows exactly where all the utensils and such get stuffed away in the kitchen so we’re rarely in danger of the cooks catching on to what we do. The DVDs are stored with my wife’s sweats in the chaise’s hidden compartment, to be returned on my next trip into the city. HoneyBea sighs at having to change to a ‘proper’ nightgown for the rest of the night.
Seven hours of sleep later and…
Knock, knock, knock. “Lady Beatrice? Lord Joseph? Breakfast is almost ready.”
Good morning, Anna. Go away. We wish. It was fun while it lasted.
With a pair of stifled groans, two members of high society come out from under the covers.
“Good morning, Anna. Thank you. We’ll be ready in twenty minutes.”
“Yes, mistress. Pardon me.”
Dear Bea and I take one last sad look at each other before getting up, unlocking the door in silence to the curtain-filtered sunlight. With straight backs and graceful strides, we go back to being the lord and lady of the house.
Rigid, tactful, elegant, and unending proper conduct. That is the image we cultivate.
Until next week.