Copyright © 2011 Maeryn Lamonte – All Rights Reserved.
The front door closed with that subdued yet satisfying sound that only a well hung, oak door could make. It spoke of opulence, dignity, style and elegance. For a simple clunk it was remarkably eloquent, but then when a front door cost as much as this one did, one expected something special.
Rupert Fenton-Blake placed his umbrella in the antique Victorian umbrella stand and hung his bowler hat on one of the hooks. Briefcase in hand he made his way his way deeper into his home, filling with that familiar contentment he always felt at returning home.
His wife was a stickler for detail and, with free access to their agreeably substantial assets, set about turning their West End Victorian terrace into a monument to bygone wealth and beauty. Everything in the house, from the furniture to the carpets, the curtains and even the wallpaper was either a genuine Victorian antique or a very good copy. Copies, of course, were only a last resort; reserved for those items that usually suffered so much wear and tear that any originals that existed were too drab and threadbare to look right in the place.
It was a shame that servants weren’t as common these days. The one thing this refuge from the twenty-first century lacked was the sight of butlers and maids making their way around the place, keeping busy doing whatever was needed keep the place clean and tidy.
“Mind you,” Rupert mused to himself, “if we had a maid’s uniform…”
He shook his head and dismissed the half formed thought before it had time to hijack his composure. He distracted himself by brushing imagined lint of the front of his pin-stripe suit and walked past the stairs to the summer room at the back of the house.
Tanya – parents had been fond of Shakespeare – was sitting in the sunlight working on some embroidery. She was dressed in a simple, grey wool skirt and cream silk blouse that complemented her grace and beauty without any overt display of colour or flamboyance; just the sort of demure and subdued quality to compliment a man of his stature. At thirty-five she held onto the captivating beauty of the Fairy Queen for whom she was named, but he still felt some fleeting regret that she now rarely dressed to enhance her looks.
They had both made sacrifices to reach the pinnacle of success they had reached though. You had to make sacrifices to achieve as much as they had.
She looked up at him and smiled. Placing the embroidery on the small table beside her, she rose gracefully to kiss him briefly on the lips.
Six o’clock was early for Rupert to come home, but there were extenuating circumstances today, for which she was pleased. Forty today and still as slim and trim as the day they had first met. For most men success equated to corpulence, but Rupert had never been one to follow the herd, preferring to keep himself in trim and handsome. As such he retained something of the boyish charm she remembered from their courting days.
“Hello dear. Happy Birthday.” She stroked the front of his suit and leaned her head against his chest. It was so easy to love this man, if only he could be home more often. She felt his arms reach around her and melted into the embrace.
“I take it everything is ready for this evening?”
She pushed away and showed him a pout she couldn’t quite maintain, her happiness at seeing him home so much earlier than usual winning over the unintended slight.
“Really Rupert. I don’t have so much to do with my day that I can’t find time to organise a party. The dining room is laid out ready, the drinks cabinet is fully stocked, the caterers are due at seven and I even have some of those foul smelling cigars Colin and James seem to favour so much these days.”
Tanya did cook, and very well at that, but when the bank’s governors came for a dinner party she knew better than to risk her husband’s standing on some culinary mishap. If something went wrong with the caterers at least there was someone else on whom to defer the blame. Besides her role tonight would be entertaining the wives, not chief skivvy and bottle washer.
As for the cigars, yet again they were a necessary evil that both endured. Rupert’s dinner jacket would need cleaning to get rid of the smell and the study would have to be closed up and aired for at least a couple of weeks to allow the offensive odour to dissipate fully.
Still, sacrifices needed to be made and it was a long established tradition at the bank that on their birthdays the senior managers entertain the board and their wives. It was quite often at these occasions that new appointments were made and one of the governors was due to retire later in the year. The grape vine held that Rupert’s long hours at the bank had been noticed, as had his innovations and the higher returns they had brought into the bank. If he was appointed to the seat of the retiring governor, he would be the youngest man on the board in the bank’s long and respected history. He hardly dared hope that they would offer him the seat, but hope was there even so and it made him nervous.
He kissed the top of his wife’s head, breathing in the familiar smell of her hair.
“I’m sorry dearest, you’ve never let me down before. It’s just that I’m…”
“I know dear, and I understand. You’ve worked so hard for this and you deserve it. Just know that whatever happens tonight, I’m proud of you.
“Now come along, I have your present over here.”
She led him by the hand into the sitting room. This house had so many rooms, it seemed a waste that they were empty so much of the time. The sound of children playing would have made so much difference, but the inevitable mess and distraction would have made this evening’s entertainments so much less effective. Another sacrifice, and one she felt more keenly than any. She didn’t know how Rupert felt about such things, but then, with the amount of time he was spending at work, he probably wouldn’t have noticed if he had children or not.
Tanya handed her husband a package wrapped in gold paper with a red ribbon around it; festive yet tasteful. At three feet long, it was an unusual enough shape to rouse his curiosity.
“A new umbrella?” He asked.
Tanya laughed. “That would hardly be an appropriate fortieth birthday present now would it? Mind you I’m as intrigued as you are. I was expecting the box to be much smaller. Come on open it.”
“How can you be intrigued? I mean didn’t you buy the present?”
“Look, just open it. You’ll understand when you do.”
Fastidious as ever, Rupert removed a small penknife from his pocket and set about cutting through the ribbon and lifting the taped edges of the wrapping paper. It was frustrating to watch as it took almost as long for him to unwrap a present as it did for the giver to wrap it in the first place. Eventually the wrapping paper was placed neatly to one side and the box lay before them.
Rupert read the printed label on the front of the box and felt his blood run cold. His full name and address were on the label along with a logo he’s seen before. Beneath the logo were the words, “Henry Harrelson’s Custom Fit Boots – Footwear made to fit the person.”
The boots were expensive he knew, and he appreciated the value of the gift. Anything custom fit and handmade fell into that category these days, but Henry Harrelson had a reputation that was turning rapidly into an urban legend. The boots were made not only to fit your feet perfectly, but your innermost personality too. There were some unusual, unexpected, occasionally unfortunate stories of recipients of these boots, and Rupert was beginning to suspect that he was about to become the subject of yet another.
He had learned from twenty years of business to disguise his unease, so even Tanya had no idea what was going through his mind as he lifted the lid off the box. He swallowed as he looked at the contents. Just what he’d been afraid of.
“There must be some mistake,” Tanya looked from the box to her husband with no small amount of consternation. “I’m so sorry love, I wanted this to be the perfect gift. I shall call the shop tomorrow and complain.”
Rupert lifted one of the boots out of the box and looked it over. Henry Harrelson prided themselves on not making mistakes, and he knew they would say as much to Tanya when she called tomorrow. He examined the foot of the boot. It looked like it would fit, and quite comfortably as well. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was the three inch spike heel and daintily pointed toe, the red patent leather with dark swirling patterns, reaching up to mid-thigh, the laces running up the back of the boot.
Rupert fought for control of his expression as dread and desire gyrated wildly inside him. With a gargantuan effort of will, and no little regret, he placed the boot back into the box and smiled at his wife.
“It was a lovely thought sweetheart. Thank-you. No don’t upset yourself, what matters is the will behind the gift, and that is perfect.”
he kissed her long and deeply on the lips. There was a spark of passion there, long forgotten, long suppressed. Sacrifices. He withdrew before the spark grew any bigger and wiped an uncommon tear from his wife’s cheek.
She offered him a brittle smile and took a deep, shuddering breath. “I’ll put these up in the bedroom, out of the way. We’d better start getting ready.”
She picked up the box and wrapping paper and hurried from the room. Rupert followed with hesitant steps, quelling as best he could the regret inside.
The door knocker wrapped out a short tattoo at precisely seven o’clock. Tanya, composure re-established and looking resplendent in a shimmering green evening gown, went to answer it and ushered the caterers through to the kitchen. The meal was partially precooked and would be ready to serve any time between seven-thirty and eight. It already smelled fantastic.
Fifteen minutes later the guests started to arrive, Rupert taking each coat or stole in turn before offering and supplying drinks in the sitting room. The last of the board members arrived at just after seven-thirty with just enough time for that welcoming drink before Tanya led everyone through to the dining room ready to be served at quarter to.
The meal was a resounding success, the caterers earning themselves a bonus for quality of both the food and the service. Conversation danced across a range of innocent topics, jokes were told and dutifully laughed at, congratulations were offered on yet another birthday survived. The convivial atmosphere was one to raise even Rupert’s hopes, but as always he maintained his poker face and didn’t let any of his hopes for recognition show.
They were part way through dessert and on the home stretch when the innocent question was asked that was to bring about so great a change of fortune for the Fenton-Blakes.
“So dear,” Belinda Hamilton leant slightly towards Tanya as she began her question, “what did you get for your husband as a birthday present?”
Tanya glanced across at her husband, momentarily flustered. The easiest answer is always the truth, or at least part of the truth she decided.
“I bought him a pair of new boots.”
“What walking boots? Wellington boots? What sort of boots dear?”
Tanya was losing her composure. Rupert had to intervene. Like his wife, he believed that holding to the truth was the best policy wherever possible. Beyond that if anything were to go wrong at this stage, he didn’t want her feeling guilty about it. At least no more guilty than he could help.
“Henry Harrelson’s,” he said. “She bought me a pair of Henry Harrelson’s boots.”
“Oh my, I’ve heard of those.” Peter Harcourt was one of the longer standing members of the board, and a self-confessed ‘man of the world’. “Custom fit to your foot size and personality or something like that aren’t they? Well come on man, let us see what they think of you.”
“I’m afraid there was some mix up with the order,” Tanya tried desperately to avoid the impending disaster. “I, er, I sent them back to the manufacturers with a strong letter.”
“Nonsense. Harrelson’s don’t make mistakes. Pride themselves on it. You’ll have the boots back by return of post, special delivery. Well gentlemen, I think this works to our advantage. Harrelson’s boots have never failed to show the mettle of a man and this gives us an unparalleled opportunity to see what lies underneath that calm professional exterior.
“What do you say gents? I think we should insist that Rupert comes into the bank this Friday wearing those boots. It’ll tell us all we need to know about whether he’s the right man to join us on the board of governors.”
There were nods and grunts of agreement all round. Tanya excused herself and made it out of the room before bursting into tears. Only Rupert’s lengthy experience dealing with businessmen and bad news helped him hide his consternation as they finished off the meal.
“Is Tanya alright dear?” Mrs Hamilton touched his arm in concern. “She looked awfully pale just now.”
“She did seem a little out of sorts earlier after I came home.” It wasn’t a lie, she had been upset by the red boots. “I don’t think it’s anything serious though. She should be back momentarily.”
She didn’t reappear as expected so Rupert broke protocol and left his guests with their coffees to investigate. He found her sobbing on their bed, the box with its offending contents thrown into the far corner and spilled across the floor. She heard him come in and ran to him.
“Oh Rupert, I’ve ruined everything. Those boots…”
“It’s alright sweetheart. You’ll phone Harrelson’s tomorrow and sort out the mistake.” He didn’t believe his own words, but right now he needed her composed and back with their guests, so he said what was needed to calm her down, holding her and soothing her with gentle words. “It’ll be alright Tanya, you’ll see.”
She calmed enough to re-join the party and Rupert led the men into his study for brandy and cigars. He felt guilty about leaving his wife alone and so vulnerable, but there it couldn’t be helped. It did give him an excuse to draw the evening to an early close, explaining his wife was unwell. The excuse was accepted readily enough and they gathered in the hall to collect outdoor-wear and bid their goodnights.
“Remember Rupert. This Friday you will come in to the bank wearing your boots. No options on this. If you don’t we’ll suspect you have something to hide and it’ll affect more than just your chances of getting on the board.”
The words were jovial, but there was a hint of steel in them, hinting at deeper suspicions.
Rupert closed the door and let out a sigh of relief. Tanya came to him and put her arms tight around him. Her tears were flowing freely now and she buried her face in his shoulder.
“What are we going to do Rupert?” Her muffled voice made its way through the soft fabric of his dinner jacket to his ear.
“Just what we said we were going to do dear. You’re going to phone Harrelson’s tomorrow to ask about the boots and hopefully everything will be cleared up by tomorrow.” Again it felt like subterfuge, but Rupert could feel his life falling apart around him, and if this were going to be the last time his wife looked at him with pride and love, then he would lie to her just this once. He raised her chin and kissed her softly, lovingly. “Remember this isn’t your fault. You wanted to give me a pair of handmade boots, it’s not your fault at all that Harrelson’s sent what they did.”
“No,” Rupert thought to himself. “It’s my fault and after tomorrow I’m going to have to live with the consequences.”
He blinked back hot tears and forced a smile onto his face. “Let’s go to bed.”
His turn to lead her by the hand. Up the stairs and into their room. He helped her out of her dress before taking off his own clothes. He glanced over at the boots, still lying where they had been thrown, and allowed himself one short moment of longing before climbing into bed beside his wife.
The following day took a significant slice out of eternity. There wasn’t anything significant that required Rupert’s attention, which was probably just as well for the bank and its customers, but that just left him more time to brood over what he would find when he arrived home. Several times during the day he crossed paths with members of the board. On each occasion they looked pointedly at his footwear and into his eyes. The meaning was clear. If he still wanted his job after Friday – tomorrow in fact – then he had better come in wearing his boots.
The working day drew to its inevitable end. The bank closed, the tellers checked through their tills. For once there were fly balances all round which meant the money could be locked up and everyone leave on time. Rupert was the last out of the branch, locking doors as he went. He hurried to the nearby bus stop and caught an earlier bus than usual, arriving back home at six o’clock for the second time in two days. Ordinarily he would have ploughed through paperwork for an hour or more before coming home in the quieter evening traffic, but he wouldn’t have been able to concentrate today. Besides, why put in the hours when he might be looking for a job come Monday?
The front door closing sounded more of coffin lids than wealth and happiness. He disposed of his hat and umbrella in the usual manner and made his way back to the sun room.
Tanya was sitting in her usual chair, her hands idle in her lap. Puffy eyes spoke of tears, dry cheeks said they were long past. Rupert stood still waiting.
“I phoned Harrelson’s.” She kept her face towards the window and the garden beyond. “Do you know what the man said?”
Rupert didn’t reply. He had a good idea and it wasn’t going to help any if he spoke it out loud.
Tanya turned accusing eyes to face him. “He said Harrelson’s don’t make mistakes. He said they had sent the right boots for you. I asked if they were in the habit of sending bright red, thigh-high, patent leather boots with a three inch spike heel through to successful male bankers, and he asked me to wait while he checked the records. When he came back to the phone he told me that they weren’t in the habit of giving out other customers’ details, but that the boots I had described were the ones they had dispatched to you, and that the order was correct. He thanked me for my enquiry and my business, then he hung up.
“Rupert, how is it that a company with a fine reputation like Harrelson’s would think to send you a pair of boots like that?”
Rupert dropped his gaze. He could think of no answer that would be adequate to that question. By the time he had mustered the courage to raise his head again, his wife had gone back to looking out the window. To remain where he was, as he was would be the most awkward of responses to an awkward situation, so he turned and walked back out the room.
He wasn’t sure where he should go, but following his feet he found himself, a short while later, in their bedroom. The boots were still strewn on the floor where they had been left the other day. Dropping his briefcase on the bed, he went over and picked them up. There was no way he could wear these over his trousers, or under them for that matter. The leather was too thick, the ankles too inflexible, the heels too long to allow him to pull a pair of trousers over the top, and as for the other way round, the laces were obviously designed to be done up tight to his calves and thighs. He even doubted there was room enough to wear a pair of socks.
A small packet caught his eye in the debris from the packing. He picked it up and looked it over. A pair of thigh high stockings, charcoal, fifteen denier with elasticated, lace trim tops. He carried it back to the bed along with the boots. His mind was a fog of mixed feelings, numbness perhaps the most evident. He slipped off his trousers and sat on the bed. A moment with his penknife had the packet of stockings open then, with long out of practice hands, he rolled each up in turn and slid it onto one leg then the other.
There was a ghost of the sensuous feeling he remembered, probably desensitised by the hairiness of his limbs. Reduced as it was it brought involuntary stirrings in his white cotton briefs which he ignored for now.
Taking each boot in turn, he loosened the laces and slipped his nylon clad feet into place. There was no doubt these boots had been made for him as his feet settled into place, comfortably enclosed by the stiff leather. He tightened the laces, leaving a straight seem up the back of each well-defined leg, then tied each boot off with a large, flamboyant bow before standing.
Given the height of the heels and his lack of practice, he felt remarkably comfortable. The boots hugged his feet and legs like a second skin, and the posture they pushed him into left his standing with easy poise and balance. He took a few steps towards the mirror, falling into a naturally sensuous rhythm and hears a gasp behind him.
He turned to find Tanya gawping at him with eyes on stalks. The open mouth snapped shut into a barely controlled giggle as she looked at his crotch then his face.
“You know, if you’re going to wear them, the underpants are a decidedly bad idea.”
“Wait there a moment.”
She ducked out of the bedroom, heading in direction of the smaller bedroom they used for storage, returning a minute or two later with a handful of red ruffles.
“Do you remember this? It’s a good job you’ve kept yourself in shape. It’s wide enough in the hip to fit you, and it has an elasticated waist so it should stretch to go around yours.”
“You want me to put on one of your old skirts?”
“Well I can’t take you at all seriously in your underpants, and after you’ve gone to the trouble of doing those laces up, it would be unkind of me to make you to take them off.”
Rupert slipped the short skirt over his legs and settled it into place around his waist. The elastic was a little tight, but Tanya was right, it fit comfortably over his hips, falling in a tumble of frills down to mid-thigh. The tops of his stockings were visible every time he bent slightly, but at least the full skirt did a good job of hiding the arousal that was going on underneath it.
Tanya was less successful at hiding her feelings. She was flushed and bit gently down on her lip as she moved closer.
“Is there something that maybe you want to tell me?” She walked sensual fingers up his shirt and took hold of his tie.
“I never meant for you to know about this. It’s a part of me I thought you wouldn’t understand, that has no place in this life we’ve made for each other, so I put it to one side. I’m sorry, I never wanted you to see this side of me, to be ashamed of me. I would have suppressed it all my life so you could have the man you deserve.”
“Do I look ashamed of you?” She tugged gently on the tie, pulling his lips down those extra three inches for the soft kiss she wanted to share.
With her free hand she unzipped her skirt and let it fall to the floor. She pushed him gently back onto the bed. He hit his head on the briefcase and turned slide it onto the floor while she slipped her knickers and tights off with one practised motion and climbed onto the bed on top of him.
She reached under his skirt and slid his underpants out of the way before settling herself onto him. She lowered her silk clad breasts onto his chest and bit his lip gently, pulling away with a mischievous grin.
“I don’t remember when I have felt this aroused,” she said as she began to move back and forth rhythmically.
He let out an involuntary yelp as her moist caress sent spark of sensation chasing through him. It was all he could do to hold back for a few moments. Fortunately little more was needed as Tanya jerked up and down a few times, letting out her own yelps of pleasure, then as swiftly as it had started it was over, his release coming with hers.
She slid over onto the bed beside him and lay still, her hand resting on his chest, measuring its rise and fall.
“So, it seems you’re ok with this after all.” Rupert couldn’t quite believe how things were turning out. He’d been convinced she’d want a divorce over this.
“If it means we have regular sex like that, I’d be ok with quite a lot more.” She snuggled into his side and he moved his arm to encircle her. “I would like to understand though.”
“I’m not sure I do myself. I’ve been this way for as long as I could remember. I used to dress up in my mother’s clothes when I was very young, which she allowed for a couple of years, but when I was about eight she told me I had to stop because it’s something men don’t do.
“Ever since then I’ve had no-one to talk to about it, no way of dealing with my desires, my feelings other than to suppress them. Everyone I’ve spoken to who’s ventured an opinion on the subject has told me that this is wrong, so I live with this feeling that there’s something wrong inside me. I keep it hidden and I try to be normal. I try especially hard for you because I love you my sweet Titania, my fairy princess. I’ve always loved you, ever since we first met.”
She snuggled in closer and reached a hand under her husband’s skirt. With feelings to mixed up to turn into words, she resorted to actions. His response was sufficient to make further conversation unnecessary for another half hour.
“So what do you think I should do tomorrow?”
It was some hours later. They had spent most of the intervening time exploring the new aspect of their sexuality and rekindling long atrophied passions, until hunger of a more conventional sort had interrupted and they had phoned a local pizzeria for a delivery.
Rupert had nearly answered the door, as was his habit, until Tanya pointed out that just south of his shirt and jacket, he was still wearing his skirt and boots. Now they were sitting at the kitchen table eating slices of the half veggie, half meaty pizza straight from the box and sharing a bottle of rosé. Tanya reached in for another slice of the meaty side and took a delicate bite before answering.
“What are your options? Either you go in as usual with your normal shoes on…”
“…in which case they dismiss me because they suspect I have an embarrassing secret which leaves me open to blackmail…”
“…or you go in wearing the boots…”
“…in which they dismiss me for being some strange, sexual deviant. I mean even if I could wear trousers over these things… I can’t wear trousers over these boots can I?”
“The only thing I can think of that might even have a chance would be really short shorts or harem pants, and either of them might look even more dodgy than what you’ve got on. Certainly they wouldn’t look any better.
“As to the other thing, isn’t it the board who are instructing you to come in wearing those boots? And if you have to wear the boots, don’t you have to wear something that’ll go with them?”
“True and true, but regardless of that there’s still the argument that since the boots came from Harrelson’s, they indicate I have a predilection for this of thing. It’s enough to lose me the job.”
“But if their reason for sacking you in the first place is that they’re afraid you can be blackmailed, surely you’re going to work dressed like that, in public, shows that you’re not afraid of being found out.”
“But it does bring into question my respectability. I mean would you be able to take your bank manager seriously if he turned up to work wearing a short frilly skirt and kinky boots?”
“I’m alright with having a husband who does it, I guess I could get used to having a bank manager who did.”
“I’m being serious here Tanya. This is our livelihood we’re talking about here.”
“I know dear, but they can’t complain about how you’re dressed if they’re the ones who insisted on it in the first place can they
“You remember my friend Janice from the bridge club? I think she needs to talk to someone about setting up an account. Why don’t I give her a call and suggest she goes in with you tomorrow morning? She’d be a great witness if your board of governors decide to say anything to you.”
“So you think I should go into work dressed like this tomorrow?”
“Well I have a nice red basque somewhere that would give you a better figure, and I’m sure I have any one of a number of blouses that would go better with that skirt than your shirt, jacket and tie, but I don’t see why not.”
Rupert shook his head. Things were changing too fast. Tanya finished her pizza and drain her wine.
“I’m going to call Janice, then I’m going to get changed for bed. Now I don’t know if your thing is just the boots, but on the off chance that you’re up for a little more experimentation, I’ll leave one of my nightdresses on your side of the bed.”
Rupert drained his wine and followed his wife up the stairs.
It had taken longer to get to sleep the previous night than first anticipated. For one thing, the boots had taken Rupert forever to unlace. For another thing, Tanya insisted that if he was going to make any kind of out of wearing stockings, he was going to have to start shaving his legs at least. She’d lent his her lady-shave and sent him into the bathroom while she made her phone call. He’d decided that, if he was going to shave his legs, he might as well do the lot, so he’d all but worn out the little pink razor clearing his arms, chest, backside and as much of his back as he could reach as well.
The nightie Tanya had put out for him had turned out to be a rich deep blue satin with lace trimmed shoulders and a knee length hem. It felt delicious against his newly denuded skin and, despite the early hour, they found reason enough to stay away until long past midnight.
Tanya woke before the alarm and, finding her husband spooning her in his soft satin nightie, squirmed around and woke him by stroking him to full arousal. They could have stayed in bed a long time, but the alarm alerted them to the lack of time.
Rupert headed for the bathroom. By the time he was done, there were a selection of clothes awaiting him. Tanya handed him a pair of lacy panties, red to match the skirt and boots.
“They’re called boy cut. They’re not designed to leave room for your meat and two veg, but they’re stretchy enough I think that you won’t feel too uncomfortable. If you happen to give a flash of what’s under your skirt, this should be a lot more acceptable than M&S cotton y-fronts.”
Rupert took them and shook his head. “I still can’t believe I’m contemplating walking out of the house wearing a skimpy skirt and these boots. You know, when I put these things on for the first time yesterday it was like all my inhibitions fell away. All those things I’ve been trying not to be took over.”
“Well if you’re nervous about travelling on public transport I could always call you a taxi.”
Rupert slipped into the soft underwear and sat down to roll on his stockings. “That’s not it. I mean I’m not nervous. Yesterday I was committed to being the person I needed to be to make you and the bank happy. Today I couldn’t care less what the rest of the world thinks; except for you. I feel so free.
“I have no idea what we’re going to do tomorrow when I’m out of work without a reference, but I do know I’ll be happier.”
“That goes for both of us then,” Tanya kissed the back of her husband’s neck. “Are you sure you don’t want to wear that basque? It took me ages to find it.”
“Maybe tonight if you’re good. Right now I think I should play the game as best I can, which means that while I have to wear the stockings and the knockers and the skirt if I’m going to be wearing these boots,” he was halfway up lacing the first one, “from the waist up I should show willing and wear a shirt and jacket. I did think about matching the tie to the skirt though. I have a plain red one in there somewhere I think.”
Tanya hunted it out, then worked at the skirt with her sewing kit to loosen the waist a little. She joined him for breakfast then waved him out the door by seven-thirty.
Everyone he passed turned to look at him, but then he must have made one of the strangest sights of the year. Pin stripe jacket and bowler hat above the waist, short frilly red skirt, stockings and kinky red stiletto boots below. He tipped his hat at people he recognised, but for the most part the hurried past trying to pretend he didn’t exist. A fair number of people stood laughing at him, and at first he burned with embarrassment. By the time he had made it halfway into town though, he’s learned to ignore them. A rather confused gent on the bus had even stood up to offer his seat. Rupert had smiled his thanks and accepted.
Janice was waiting at the bank. Her eyes popped when she saw him. “Tanya told me what you’d be wearing, but I thought she was joking. What’s this about Rupert?”
“It’s rather a long story. Why don’t you come up to my office and I’ll tell you over coffee? Just one thing though. If anyone comes in and asks, I’m talking to you about how the bank can help with your money and investments.”
She nodded and followed him into the bank, where he greeted every member of staff he passed by name and overlooked their dumbfounded gawping.
Behind the closed door of his office Rupert offered her a seat and set about making the first batch of coffee of the day. He briefly outlined the events of the previous two days, omitting the bedroom scenes other than to say that relations between him and Tanya had improved. He was just summing up when the office door crashed open to reveal the very red features of Peter Harcourt.
Rupert jumped to his feet, revealing his hidden lower half.
“What do you mean barging into my office when I’m with a client?” He demanded with justifiable ire.
“A client? What are you starting up, some sort of sordid, perverted sex shop here?”
Janice shot to her feet. “Excuse me, but just who are you? I came here for financial advice, not to be accused of lewdness.”
“You’d take financial advice from that?” Peter’s fingers flailed out in Rupert’s general direction.
“So far everything he has told me this morning has made perfect sense. And I notice that you haven’t had the decency to answer my question. Rupert, does this man work here?”
Rupert had to bite down hard to keep himself from smiling; that had been a nice touch. “I’m sorry, Janice. Allow me to introduce you to Peter Harcourt. He’s one of the bank’s governors, and usually a lot more amenable.”
“Fenton-Blake, you’re fired. How dare you come into work dressed in this manner, damaging the reputation of our bank? What’s more, you shall be hearing from our solicitors.”
“Mr Harcourt, whilst I would prefer not to have this conversation in front of a prospective client, since you started it, might I remind you that it was your instruction, ratified by the board, that I should wear my boots into the office today?”
“Those are your boots? I always knew there was something perverted about you Rupert. Besides I most certainly did not instruct you to wear a skirt or stockings.”
“Well what else am I supposed to wear with these boots? There’s no way I could wear a pair of trousers over them.”
“You could have shown us the boots a couple of days ago.”
“A couple of days ago Tanya and I both thought the wrong boots had been sent to me by mistake. Henry Harrelson’s have since confirmed that the order was, in fact, correct from their point of view, which left me with no choice but to follow your instructions and wear them into work today. I do apologise for the skirt, but at short notice there was very little else I could find that would go with them,”
“Well I’m sorry Rupert, but I can’t have anyone dressing like this in the bank. You’ll have to go.”
“I have a change of clothes with me sir. I’d be happy to change into my normal suit if you no longer require me to wear my Harrelson’s boots.”
“It’s too late man, I mean you’re an embarrassment, and a security risk. What if someone kidnapped you and threatened you with public exposure.”
“I think I’ve already been exposed publicly. I mean I don’t think I could expose myself more publicly than coming into work on public transport dressed like this. As to the embarrassment, that’s purely as a result of your instructions, sir. I think an industrial tribunal would see things in my favour if you tried to dismiss me on those grounds.”
The door was still open and the combined raised voices were attracting attention. Amongst those gathering outside the door were several of the other governors. Without being aware of his audience, Peter’s temper finally snapped.
“Will you get out of this building? As I said before, you are fired.”
“On what grounds sir.”
“On the grounds that I don’t want some sissified pansy running my bank. Now get out before I call the police and have you arrested.”
Janice stood and turned a cool gaze on Peter.
“Perhaps I should take this opportunity to introduce myself.” She offered Peter a business card. “Janice White, solicitor. Rupert’s solicitor for that matter. Between the witnesses behind you and the recording I have here,” she showed him the small digital Dictaphone she’d been holding since she’d come into the bank, “I think you’ll find that we have sufficient proof of unfair dismissal, not to mention prejudicial treatment. You’ll be hearing from me directly. Good day to you sir. Come on, Rupert.”
She pushed past the bewildered governor, followed by an almost equally bewildered Rupert. Outside the bank Rupert stopped her.
“I didn’t know you were a solicitor.”
“Tanya suggested I keep that little piece of information from you. She wasn’t sure you’d go through with it if you knew I was in the legal profession.”
“Well she got that about right.”
“Then it’s about time you woke up and smelled the roses, because from your point of view they are covered in fertiliser. Are you really so naïve that you can’t see Peter Harcourt has it in for you, probably along with a few other board members?
“The days of businesses being loyal to their employees are pretty much over, and any employees who offer loyalty back are just setting themselves up for a fall. You don’t owe these guys anything, in fact they owe you for the effort and expertise you’ve brought into the bank. They just don’t want to pay you what you’re worth.
“Look, my car’s just round the corner. There’s no sense in you taking two trips on public transport dressed like that, let me take you home.
“If anyone calls, direct them to me. As your solicitor I’m quite happy to take your direction, settle out of court, come up with a way for you to keep job if we can, whatever you want, but please let me handle the negotiation.”
Rupert nodded his head. The car was as near as she’d said and, before he’d turned too many more heads, he found himself smoothing his short skirt underneath him and settling into the soft leather seat for an easy ride home.
Rupert let himself in and hung up his hat and umbrella. It seemed strange being home in the middle of the day, especially after so many years of long days and late nights. Janice had spoken at length about the size of settlement she thought she could get for them, and he was tempted to take the money and run.
He noticed something hanging on the balustrade as he walked past the stairs. A garment bag with an envelope pinned to it. He opened it and read the card inside.
“If you’re done with being a bank manager, I wondered if you might like to try being a maid for the rest of the day.”
He unzipped the garment bag enough to see the black frills and white lace inside. A quiet smile settled on his face as he headed up the stairs to change. Here was something that might just work.