Here's part 2 of the little mini-serial I'm running here. Part 1, the introduction, is here.
This was a nice place, George Mead thought as he walked up the steps to the front door. Elegant Georgian terraced housing stretched right up the hill. A quiet street. Posh without being ostentatious.
He rang the bell and was surprised by the woman who answered. She was younger than he’d expected, and far more attractive.
“Nicole?” he asked.
“Yes,” the woman replied. “And you must be George. I was told to expect you.”
She was gorgeous. Delicate high cheekbones, luscious red lips and pale white skin on a face that could easily grace the cover of a fashion magazine. Her jet-black hair was cut in a stylish bob with wings to frame those perfect features. Her figure was hidden by an elegant white fur coat. Her eyes were also hidden; she wore a large pair of black sunglasses. They looked very chic.
Absolutely gorgeous. She could have been a French film star, or a perfume model. What was he doing here?
“That’s right,” George said. “Miss Kitson sent me.”
Nicole didn’t seem so thrilled. Actually, that was a bit of an understatement. George thought he was about to get a door slammed in his face.
“I bring wine,” he said, holding a bottle aloft with a cheerful grin.
The bottle was Miss Kitson’s idea. It was also her bottle. George didn’t have a clue on the quality. There wasn’t even a name on the bottle, just a label featuring silhouettes of sylph-like women dancing around oversized bunches of grapes on a plain yellow-gold background.
It overcame Nicole’s reticence. She looked at the bottle and her cold hostility thawed into a warm smile.
“Come inside,” she said.
George tried to place her accent. He didn’t think it was French, although it had a similar sensual eroticism. Brazilian?
“Let me take your jacket,” Nicole said as he crossed the threshold into a neat little hallway.
“Er, thanks,” George said.
He let her help him even though he didn’t really need the help. Was it him, or was she standing a little closer than was entirely necessary? She seemed to linger a little over helping him remove his garment. Odd girl, George thought as he watched her hang his jacket up next to the door. Extremely beautiful, but odd.
She picked up the bottle of wine and examined the label. Her supple lips turned up in a smile.
“Will you join me for a glass?” she asked.
“Sure,” George replied. It was why he was here after all.
He followed her through into a large kitchen-slash-dining room. For all her glamorous appearance, Nicole’s house looked surprisingly normal, bland even. Her kitchen was so clean and tidy George wondered if she’d ever prepared a meal in it. Nicole opened a cupboard and brought out a pair of pristine wine glasses. She popped open the wine bottle and took in the released aroma with a murmur of pleasure. George caught a whiff of something both fruity and spicy. Nicole poured out two glasses, but instead of passing one to George, placed both on the table instead.
She pulled out a chair and motioned George to sit on it. Again, she seemed to linger a little longer than was necessary behind him. This time George felt a strange prickling sensation on the back of his neck. What an odd girl.
Nicole moved away, leaving behind traces of an exhilarating musk that crackled up George’s nostrils. Nice perfume. She sat opposite from him, her eyes still hidden behind big black shades.
The wine was an odd colour, George thought as he examined his glass. He’d thought it was a white, but it was yellower than any white he’d ever seen, almost like sparkling honey or amber. It must be a specialist brand. That would explain the label.
“I hope this isn’t really expensive,” he said.
“Why?” Nicole asked.
“It’d be wasted on me,” he said. “I’ve got no palette to speak of at all when it comes to wine. It’s all grape juice gone off to me.”
In truth, George didn’t really like wine, but he took an experimental sip anyway. It would be rude not to drink it.
Mmm, that was nice, really nice. It was sweet rather than dry and made his whole tongue come to life, like there was a wild party kicking off in his mouth. He took another sip—bigger this time—and relished the fizzing sensation as it slipped down his throat. Delicious. He took a gulp. He could drink this all night, or at least until he fell out of his chair.
Nicole swirled the glass under her nose. Her nostrils dilated as she savoured the aroma. She didn’t drink.
“How do you know Inari?” She asked.
“Miss Kitson? I’m sort of her odd-job man,” George answered. “I do a bit of gardening here, mend a few wires there. That kind of thing. I help her out with her psychiatry work sometimes.”
“Really,” Nicole said, leaning forwards. Her wine glass was in her hand, but she still hadn’t touched a drop.
“Well...” George started. “I say help out, but really it’s just talking to people. And listening. Miss Kitson sends me out to visit people and I talk to them and listen to their stories. They’re usually old dears, poor things. It’s sad really. Their husbands are long dead, the family doesn’t give a toss, so they’re left on their own. I go over, have a cuppa with them and try and cheer them up. That’s all people need sometimes—someone to talk to. I don’t need any fancy certificates to do that.”
George looked at Nicole.
“I thought that’s why Miss Kitson sent me here, but you don’t exactly look...”
“Old,” Nicole finished for him with a smile. “I’m not lonely either,” she added.
Her smile held extra meaning.
Of course, George thought. A girl as pretty as her would never lack for male attention. It didn’t mean she always had someone to talk to. Being beautiful wasn’t always a guarantee against feeling isolated and separated. Maybe that was why Miss Kitson had sent him.
“But do you ever get a chance to talk?” George asked.
Nicole cocked her head to the side, as if George had said something which had genuinely surprised her. She looked at him and then laughed. It was light-hearted laughter, nothing malicious or mocking about it, more like she was laughing at herself for missing something obvious.
“It’s very noble,” Nicole said, “giving up your time to talk to those lonely old dears.”
“I like it,” George said. “I’ve always wanted to be a writer. To be good at that you have to get out there and hear what people have to say. Some of these people, the things they’ve seen throughout their lifetimes, the stories they know...It’s fascinating. I never understand why they get abandoned when they have such tales to tell. It’s tragic.”
Nicole looked at George with an impish smile. “I can give you some stories,” she said. “Did Inari ever tell you what I do for a living?”
“Um no, I don’t believe she did,” George said. He wondered what was coming next.
“I’m a prostitute,” Nicole said, absolutely straight-faced and without a hint of shame. “Men pay money to have sex with me.”
To be continued...