I spent my first 3 weeks working from Brightstone’s offices, which were above their very first store right in the heart of Lynn. I got myself a suit, shirt, and tie, and looked the part of a young executive. I continued to tell people I was younger than my actual years, just because it fitted in more with the persona I was living to be just under 30, rather than almost 33.
After this, I was sent out to oversee the opening of their newest store in Braintree, Essex. I kissed Mary goodbye and set off for the 100-mile journey across the country. The building itself was almost complete, and most of the staff had been engaged, all that remained was what Greg referred to as “simple logistics”. It was anything but simple, making sure that training went ahead for all the staff, watching the production of promotional material and advertising and keeping an eye on the final preparations for the store itself. As part of the big unveiling, we opened the doors on Friday afternoon and stayed open through the night, all of the Saturday, and only closed at 6 pm on Sunday evening. This was more of a publicity stunt than anything else, but it got us noticed and in the local press and radio. I’d been working really long hours in the preparation phase, and then was in and out of the store most of that first weekend. The store manager said he’d seen more of me than his own wife.
I loved the job. I loved the feeling of responsibility and of having all the loose ends under my control. Before we opened on Friday, I invited all the members of staff out for a drink on Thursday evening. I wasn’t sure that expenses would cover it, but I thought it an excellent idea to get them all together and build team spirit. In fact, I argued with Head Office for about 2 weeks, before they eventually agreed to pay my expense claim. Even then I gathered it had taken the intervention of Greg to get them to pay it.
I had stayed in my hotel for 4 solid weeks before I got back to Lynn, and after changing the first thing I wanted to do was to go and see Mary. When I arrived at the bar, she greeted me with a big kiss and a hug, but my instincts told me something had changed. I had a drink while the girls were busy at the bar and convinced myself it was just my imagination. Soon Angel turned up, but no sooner had we started to talk than Mary whisked me away to her room.
There we kissed, and we had urgent, passionate sex. As we relaxed in each other’s arms afterward, she turned so that we spooned, my front to her back, and then she dropped her bombshell.
“Tony,” she said, “I do love you, and I think I always will.” She hesitated.
“Why do I sense that there is a “but” just about to come?” I asked to the back of her head.
“It’s not really that,” she said. “But I do have something to tell you. I know we never talked about the future, and we never claimed to be exclusive or anything like that. For all I know you might have had a dozen women while you’ve been away.”
“As it happens I haven’t,” I said, waiting for her to continue.
“Well, this is so hard, but I have to tell you that there is a guy who comes in here from the farm down the road. His name’s Pete, and he’s really sweet, and last week, we, well, we were all a bit drunk, and he and I ended up in bed together.”
I wasn’t sure where this conversation was going, or why we had it lying in bed after sharing amazing sex together. I waited until she continued.
“I wanted you to hear it from me first.” She eventually said. “I can’t say it meant much to me, it was just a physical thing. I can’t guarantee it won’t happen again, so if you want to call it quits between us, I’ll understand.” She paused again, and when I didn’t reply, or try to move away, she continued. “On the other hand, if you can accept that I’m a complicated girl, then I’d really like us to continue to see each other. It goes both ways, of course, but for as long as it’s fun for both of us I’d like to carry on.”
She turned over and looked into my eyes, trying, I’m sure, to work out what I was thinking. “Wow Mary, I don’t know what to say” I admitted. “Seems to me you just gave me permission to sleep with anyone I want, without consequences. I guess that’s what is known as an open relationship. Maybe I should be angry, but I’m really not. You are a strong woman with a mind, and a body, of your own. As long as you’re OK with this arrangement, then I guess I am too.”
Mary sighed and kissed me. “Thank you,” she said, and then “I really should be getting back to the bar – do you want to stay here, or come down with me?”
“I’ll be down in a minute, you go ahead,” I said, as she grabbed her clothes and went back downstairs. Alone, I wondered if I really meant what I had told her. It was true I wasn’t in the least jealous, which took me totally by surprise. Instead, the thought of her with other men didn’t shock or surprise me. I thought back to our first time when I’d just met her a few hours before. How could I be surprised that someone who would do that with me would fall into bed with other men? Now if it had been Ruby, I’d have been devastated.
I was shocked that I had suddenly thought about Ruby; where had that idea come from?
I shook my head. Ruby was years ago, in a different world and a different lifetime. I pulled on my jeans and t-shirt and headed to the bar. One thing was for sure, makeup sex with Mary was totally worth it.