We pick up the scene mid-chapter, and for once we see Tennyson struggling to master a situation. This scene opens a couple of new windows onto Ten's personality, and the narrators.... and maybe mine too?
Then out of the blue Tennyson sat forward, put her glass on the table, looked Julia and me right in the eyes, and said,
“So its about time we talked about your relationship.”
Naturally I was floored by this.
If you have read any of my other ramblings about my time with Tennyson Viterbi you will have noticed she has a habit of dropping the occasional bomb on me. I could describe her as a veritable Lancaster in that regard, though maybe that wouldn't be fair... perhaps Mosquito would be more appropriate given her tendency to sneak in fast under the radar and drop it right on target before I know anything is coming. Mind you, this time she seemed more like a Typhoon doing Mach 2 at treetop height, and delivering a fairly large tactical nuke.
I'd been wondering what was Ten's agenda was for a while by now and reaching no firm conclusion, but I can honestly say that anything like this had simply not occurred to me. I'm sure my face must have initially showed confusion, I'm guessing perplexity followed it shortly thereafter, as these were the first things that chased the opening hammer blow through my head. After that I lost track of what I was thinking for several seconds, I've never been able to reconstruct it either. Suffice to say I'm pretty sure I must have looked like a surprised carp.
I looked across at Julia. Her face was a picture, and a moving one at that. She stared at Tennyson open mouthed for maybe a minute before looking at me. I did my best to assume an expression of offended innocence, but under the circumstances I doubt I succeeded very well. Besides I don't know exactly what offended innocence should look like anyway.
I contemplated for a few moments then, given that I was offended, and also innocent, I concluded that any attempt to modify my expression was likely wasted effort, so I gave up trying and just let my face do what it wanted. I don't know if it looked any better, but I'll guess it couldn't have been worse.
It had maybe been two minutes by now, and you could have heard a pin drop. Julia's mouth had begun to work, though as yet she was unable to articulate. It wouldn't be long though, so I decided it was time to break the silence and attempt to salvage the situation.
I managed, “Errr....”
In the circumstances I think it wasn't bad going, but once it was said I found myself unable to think of anything else.
Julia may have been slower off the blocks, but when she finally rallied she came off the ropes with a bang.
“What?” was her first word, and this print medium is completely inadequate to the task of conveying the depth of offended dignity she managed to pack into that single syllable.
“Tennyson, darling,“ I'd begun to rally now, “We don't...”
“Too right we don't!” Input Julia, looking at me accusingly.
I sat back and waved my hands in that automatic but nonsensical placating gesture that looks like polishing a pair of breasts. Horror joined innocence on my face, and I just about managed to get out, “Nothing to do with me.” before my brain clammed up again.
Great! Now on the one hand Tennyson seemed to think something was going on, which wasn't. That was bad enough in itself; but on the other hand Julia seemed to be thinking that I'd made Tennyson think it was. That was illogical as well as inaccurate, and why either of them might have thought either thing was beyond me, but that seemed to be what was happening.
Julia glowered at me.
I tried to put “appeal” into my expression, but I doubt very much that I succeeded. Certainly the severity of Julia's gaze didn't waver. I looked to Tennyson instead, frightened about what I might see there. I was surprised again, but this time it was for a different reason.
You see, I'd calmed down enough by now to pay proper attention to what I was seeing, and to notice that Tennyson, curiously enough, was not glowering.
That me feel a little better, but possibly even more confused.
In fact, as she looked from me to Julia, then back again with a sort of expression she rarely shows. Was that uncertainty I saw in her eyes, or confusion? Yes to both of those, and overlaid with a large dose of concern. That seemed like an odd thing to see in the circumstances, and I slowly began to realize that Tennyson, (yes Tennyson!) had maybe miscalculated. I still didn't have any idea where she was going with this, but I began to feel a little bit less personally vulnerable.
Julia obviously didn't feel the same way at all. She clearly though she was being accused of poaching on another woman's territory and was starting to get angry.
“Now you listen here,” she rounded on Tennyson, “I haven't touched your boyfriend and I'd like to know why you think I have.”
“Oh Julia,” Tennyson replied softly, “Anyone could see the way you were looking at him last Friday.”
I cringed. Bad move, very uncharacteristic. For once Tennyson was not mastering the situation, and was obviously beginning to find herself out of her depth.
“And what exactly do you mean by that?” Strident, angry. The soft tone wasn't working at all.
“Simply that you obviously find him attractive. Very attractive.”
Visions of a hole and a shovel appeared in my mind, as Tennyson's attempt at a conciliatory tone backfired terribly.
Julia bristled visibly, locking her gaze on Tennyson like a Tiger on its lunch. This could have gone anywhere from anger to violence, and for a few moments the scene hovered in the balance. I could imagine a coin tumbling through he air in a great arc as the tense moment stretched out...
Then with a visible effort of will Julia relaxed a little. The vein in her neck stopped pulsing, and her hackles dropped a little.
Tennyson breathed again.
“He looks OK,” Julia conceded, “But I don't fancy him, and even if I did...”
“Hello, I'm in the room too you know” I interjected at this point. I'd begun to feel rather like the last decent tea set in the Debenhams sale, with a couple of Swansea fishwives fighting over me.
The ladies both looked at me for a couple of seconds, Julia with an expression that seemed to suggest she was blaming me for this, Tennyson with a small smile beginning to curl the corner of her mouth. They held that position for a couple of seconds, then returned to the fray as if I wasn't there.
“... I would never stick my foot...”
“Yes yes yes, I know,” Tennyson interrupted, placating “But...”
“But nothing!” Julia overrode her. She shuffled forwards on the sofa and bent to slip her shoes back on. Clearly she was about to storm out in high dudgeon. “If you think...”
Tennyson flopped her head back in exasperation, stared at the ceiling for a second, rolled her eyes, then obviously made a decision...
As quick as a flash she slid off the sofa onto her knees, cupped Julia's cheeks with both hands, lifted her head gently but firmly, until she could look her right in the eyes from a distance of no more than about four inches...
Then leaned forward and kissed her, firmly, right on the lips.
It was one of the shortest, most chaste kisses I've ever seen Tennyson deliver, either before or since, but it had the most dramatic effect.
Julia froze, and her expression slowly changed from anger to something more like you'd expect to see on the face of a rabbit suddenly caught in your headlights in the fast lane of the M4. She pulled back a couple of inches only, her eyes never leaving Tennyson's.
“You misunderstand.” Tennyson said, softly, then she leaned forward and kissed her again.
This one was a bit less chaste, and lasted quite a bit longer. Julia could have pulled away at any time, but she didn't.
At last Tennyson broke off, presumably to breathe. Julia slowly sat back, staring at Tennyson wide-eyed. She still resembled a rabbit, but this time it was more like one who knew the farmer was away, had unexpectedly discovered he'd left the garden gate open, and that the carrots were really big.
Ten had been on her knees still, but now, never breaking Julia's gaze she got up and straddled her thighs, pressing her back into the cushions.
Once again she took Julia's face in her hands and delivered a kiss, but this one could not have been described as chaste in any way. Obviously tongues were involved, but Tennyson made breasts and hips part of it too. After a few moments Julia's arms went around her and pulled her closer still, her left hand winding into Tennyson's hair and pulling her head down to her, as the kiss went on and on and on.
Obviously I know what Tennyson's kisses are like, I have great experience of them and they are some of my favourite things, but I'd never seen one from outside as it were.
I mean, as I've previously alluded to, Tennyson can turn me on walking down the street in an anorak, in the rain, and probably even would if her hair was in curlers and a hair net. If she put her mind to it she could raise the dead, or parts of them anyway, stop armies in their tracks, and probably persuade the tide to, er... not go out.
But here I was treated to the vision of Tennyson in action. On the intellectual level it was fascinating to watch the way she made every bit of body contact count; breasts against breasts, thighs against hips, right arm reaching round now to caress her back while her left echoed Julia's own, tangling in her long dark hair.
I still don't know how she does it, but her magic was plainly working on Julia now in the same way it works on me; nothing existed in those timeless moments but the two of them and the kiss, which seemed in that instant to last for ever.
The small part of my mind dealing with intellect at that moment was naturally struggling to make itself heard, but later I found that it had faithfully recorded the whole program to play back for me later, in slow motion, often at mightily inconvenient times such as when I'm stuck in some tedious meeting with my mind wandering, but am about to get up to deliver a presentation.
At last Tennyson disengaged from Julia's mouth, though maintaining all other points of contact.
“You see,” she said, “you are a very attractive woman.”
She kissed her again, deep and erotic, but short this time.
“I find myself very attracted to you,”
She paused for another kiss, the same but lasting a bit longer.
“I can tell you are attracted to John.”
I held my breath. I still didn't know where this was going.
“And obviously John is attracted to you, however much he tries to kid himself he isn't.”
Another, each one had seemed more natural, and mutual.
“And I know neither of you would dream of doing anything about it behind my back.”
While that was going on I'd thought about Tennyson's words and realized she was exactly right in every respect. Julia had I had formed a connection on very nearly the first day we'd met, and the mutual attraction had remained and deepened since.
It had manifested itself purely asexually, but nonetheless had affected us in many ways both small and large; from holding the lift, to mutual support in contract meetings. It had made us a powerful team, and given us the ability to achieve rapid results within Julia's own department by cutting through the normal politics and ass-covering the rest of the board indulged in. It had done good for the contract, the company, and Julia's position of course, and had made my job of go far more smoothly. For all that I'd never really wondered what was making it happen.
At last Tennyson surfaced. Julia wore an expression of bliss mingled with worship, a far cry from the fury of a scant few minutes before.
“So I'd like you to come to bed with the pair of us.”
Julia looked at her with those wide, dark eyes of hers, hardly breathing but subtly panting at the same time. She looked on the edge of orgasm, and I guess she was. So was I as it happened. Unable to speak, she nodded once.
Another kiss, longer and slower than those before and if possible even more erotic.
“And I'd like you to help him keep the bed warm while I'm away.” Tennyson concluded at last with a small, hesitant smile.
Julia was clearly still having a bit of trouble processing what she had heard, but after a moment she nodded once again.
Tennyson's smile broadened into one of her trademark supernovae, Julia matched it, and I could feel my face moving involuntarily too.
“You know what.” Tennyson mused whimsically at last, “Who needs a bed?” and she reached down and started, very slowly, to undo Julia's buttons.
© Marcus Brook 2016