Justine’s Finishing Touch
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I guess that I was a bit of a slow starter. I was 20 — almost 21 — before I got a proper look at a real, live naked woman.
Justine was the girlfriend of a friend, and she and the friend — Johnny — were going through a bit of a rough patch. In fact, it was pretty much all over between them — except that Johnny hadn’t got around to conveying this bit of information to Justine. She thought that they were still ‘an item’ — albeit an item that was in need of a bit of work.
Johnny and Justine were both quite a bit older than me. They were in their mid-30s. And I think that Justine probably thought that she and Johnny would eventually get married.
I can’t remember how Johnny conned me into being the one to return a few of Justine’s ‘personal’ items to her. Johnny had taken up with Bryony. And he didn’t want Bryony discovering Justine’s stuff in the drawer of the dresser in his bedroom.
‘Shouldn’t you go and explain things to her?’ I said. ‘You know.’
‘Probably. But not today. I think I need to break it off gradually. Give her time to get used to the idea.’
I remember that when I rang Justine’s doorbell, she seemed a little surprised to see me. ‘Oh. Hello.’ she said. ‘I thought it might be Johnny.’
‘No. Sorry,’ I said. ‘Just me.’
‘Oh, no. Don’t be sorry. Come in.’
‘Just dropping some stuff off,’ I said. ‘From Johnny.’ I remember her looking in the bag and frowning. ‘I was just around at Johnny’s place helping him to move his piano,’ I explained.
‘His piano? He hasn’t sold it, has he?’
‘No, no,’ I said. ‘He just thought that it was getting a bit much sun where it was. We moved it to the other side of the room.’
Justine frowned. ‘I told him that it was getting too much sun a couple of weeks ago.’
‘Oh well, the message seems to have finally got through. Better late than never, eh?’
Justine nodded. ‘Come in,’ she said.
‘Well … you’re probably busy.’
‘Busy? No. I’ve just opened a bottle of wine. I was hoping that Johnny might come around.’
I followed her into the flat, and, yes, she had opened a bottle of wine. It also looked as if she might have given it a bit of a nudge.
‘I’ll get another glass,’ she said.
To be honest, I had never really understood how Johnny and Justine had got together. Johnny was dapper, multi-talented, and a money magnet. Justine was verging on Rubenesque. And, while she was no dummy, she could, occasionally, come across as being a bit … well … naïve.
Justine poured me a glass of wine and topped up her own. ‘Cin cin,’ she said.
‘Yes. Cin cin,’ I echoed.
‘What do you think?’ she asked, after we had had a few sips of the wine. ‘Is Johnny trying to tell me something?’
‘Tell you something?’
‘Knickers,’ she said, point to the bag. ‘Next time I’m at his place, I won’t have any.’
I think that I just laughed. But I suspect that I may have laughed nervously.
‘It’s so difficult,’ she said. ‘You know. Men.’
She was pushing on the wrong door. From everything that I had heard, it was women who were difficult. Of course, at that stage, I hadn’t really had a lot of experience of women. I was just going by what other people had said.
‘Do you think I’m fat?’ Justine asked.
‘Fat? Oh, gosh, no.’ Compared to beanpole Bryony, Justine was a little on the plump side. But we’re not talking circus proportions. She was just … well, as I said earlier, slightly Rubenesque. Curvy. With breasts that were probably more than a handful.
‘I think Johnny thinks I’m fat,’ she said.
‘He keeps saying that I should have his old Exercycle.’
‘Perhaps he’s just trying to make space,’ I said. ‘His new place is quite small. Swish. Trendy. Chic, even. But small.’
‘I don’t think so,’ she said.
‘Also, I know that he’s trying to organise things so that he can work from home more often. Save a bit of travelling time. You know.’
Justine nodded. But she didn’t seem convinced. ‘I’ll get some cheese,’ she said, and she headed off to the kitchen, returning a few minutes later with a squishy ripe Camembert, some slices of semi-dried apricot, and a plate of assorted crackers. ‘He’s been very strange lately,’ she said.
‘Oh? Who’s that?’
‘Johnny. Beylikdüzü escort Do you think he’s up to something?’
I knew that he was up to something. But I couldn’t very well tell Justine. So I tried to change the subject. ‘How’s the shop going?’ I asked. (Johnny had steered Justine into a business selling handmade designer fashion accessories — handbags, belts, scarves, hair slides, that sort of thing.)
‘It’s good,’ she said. ‘Although I sometimes wonder if I’m cut out to be a shopkeeper. In one place all day. Still … as Johnny keeps pointing out, it’s quite a successful business. You should come and visit me.’
‘Yeah. I will,’ I said. ‘Next time I’m in that part of town, I’ll stick my head in.’
As things transpired, I was in Marylebone the following week. I had to drop my saxophone into Howath for a bit of a tweak. Justine’s store was almost directly across the street. I was in two minds as to whether to look in on her. I hadn’t seen Johnny for a few days, and I wasn’t sure whether the two of them had had their little chat. But then, when I walked out of Howath, Justine was standing there in her doorway. Looking straight across at me. I couldn’t very well ignore her.
‘Oh, hello,’ she said. ‘What a nice surprise. You should have told me. If I’d known you were coming, I’d have ordered chocolate eclairs. Or a marching band.’
‘Sorry. It was a last minute decision,’ I said. ‘A sticky G-sharp key. And if you need chocolate eclairs, I could probably find something over on Marylebone High Street. There’s bound to be a shop over there that sells chocolate eclairs.’
‘Or we could just have coffee.’
‘Sounds like a plan,’ I said.
The Finishing Touch was what I believe is sometimes described as a ‘destination store’. There isn’t a lot of passing foot traffic. You go to The Fishing Touch because you are looking for something in particular — but you’re not quite sure what it is. You go there because you are looking for ‘a finishing touch’.
‘Busy?’ I said.
‘No. Very quiet today. I think that I’ve only had four customers so far. Mind you, they have all spent up large. Thankfully.’
Justine made a fresh pot of coffee, and we sipped and chatted about nothing in particular. I must admit that I kept expecting her to bring up the subject of Johnny. But she didn’t. Eventually, I said that I needed to go.
‘Oh, well … if you must you must,’ she said. And then she said: ‘But before you go, what are you doing on Saturday night?’
‘Saturday? Umm … nothing. Well, not that I can think of.’
‘Oh, good. I’m having a little dinner party. Shall we say seven o’clock?’
I don’t know why, but it took me a bit by surprise. ‘You want me to come?’ I said. ‘To your dinner party?’
‘I certainly do,’ she said. ‘I very much want you to come.’ And she gave me a little kiss on the cheek.
The weather was unexpectedly fine on Saturday, and so I walked over to Justine’s place, arriving slightly before seven.
‘Oh. You’re here,’ she said, when she answered the door.
‘I am. Sorry. I think that I may be a little early. I walked and it took me less time than I expected.’
‘That’s OK,’ she said. ‘At least I’m dressed.’ And she laughed. ‘Come and talk to me while I finish off the starter. Oh, and you’ve brought wine.’ She studied the label. ‘Perfect,’ she said. ‘Perfect. Maybe you could open it and pour a couple of glasses.’
I followed Justine out to the kitchen — which was filled with the most delicious aromas. ‘Am I the first to arrive?’ I said.
Justine frowned slightly, as though she didn’t understand the question. And then she laughed again. ‘Oh, yes,’ she said. ‘I see what you mean.’
I took her non-answer as ‘Yes’ and poured a couple of glasses of the crisp, citrusy New Zealand sauvignon blanc.
‘So … what have you been up to today?’ she asked.
‘Working on my thesis,’ I said. ‘Mainly.’
‘And how is it going?’
Justine laughed. ‘But I bet it’s brilliant,’ she said. And she raised her wine glass. ‘Cheers.’
Watching Justine working in the kitchen was a bit like watching Angela Hartnett or Monica Galetti or someone like that. She was doing about ten things at once Beylikdüzü escort and yet the kitchen was still immaculate. Goodness knows why she was spending her days as a shopkeeper. ‘I take it that you like cooking,’ I said.
‘I suppose so. I guess the real thing is that I like eating. I hope that you like salmon,’ she said.
‘Who doesn’t?’ I said.
‘Well … I know quite a few people who don’t,’ Justine said. ‘Bambi and all that sort of thing. But as long as you’re not one of them ….’ And she smiled.
Standing there in Justine’s kitchen, sipping wine, chatting, and being somewhat fascinated by her unexpected (well, unexpected by me, anyway) cheffing skills, I suddenly realised that it was well past seven o’clock, and there was, as yet, no sign of the other dinner guests.
‘Right,’ Justine said, ‘I think we are ready to start plating up.’ And she took two shallow soup bowls and started adding various delectable-looking bits and pieces, followed by two barely-cooked pieces of salmon — barely cooked, that is, except for the crispy, crunchy skin. And then, finally, she added to each dish about a cupful of the most fragment-smelling coconut curry broth. ‘There we are: soup and the fish course all in one. Now … if you could bring the wine …’ Justine said. And she led the way to the dining table which, it was impossible not to notice, was set for just two diners.
It was on the tip of my tongue to ask what happened to ‘the others’. But I said nothing. Slut that I am, I was totally captivated by the prospect of the crispy-skinned salmon with the lightly-curried coconut broth.
The meal was fabulous. Not only had Justine looked like Angela or Monica while she was cooking, her food tasted like the sort of food that you might expect one of them to have cooked. ‘Are you sure that this place doesn’t have a Michelin star?’ I said.
Justine just smiled.
There was only one small — well, not so small, really — problem with the meal. It wasn’t the food. It wasn’t the wine. And it certainly wasn’t the company. It was the ghost of Johnny — which I was half expecting to leap out and spoil things at any moment. In the end, I summoned him myself. ‘Have you heard from Johnny lately?’ I said.
Justine took a sip of her wine and, for a few moments, said nothing. And then she said: ‘He’s seeing someone else. I think she’s a lawyer or something.’ And she added: ‘But you knew that, didn’t you?’
‘It’s OK,’ Justine said. ‘I don’t blame you for staying schtum. You were in a no-win situation.’
‘Well …,’ I said — a second time.
‘I don’t think that I was right for his … umm … image,’ Justine said. ‘Did you know that he irons his pyjamas?’
I didn’t. It’s not the sort of thing that blokes really discuss. But, in a funny sort of way, it didn’t really surprise me.
‘And you?’ Justine said.
‘Yes. Do you iron your pyjamas?’
‘I don’t even have any pyjamas,’ I said.
‘Oh, good.’ For some reason, Justine seemed pleased about that.
But we hadn’t finished dinner. We still had pudding to go. ‘It’s just a little finishing touch,’ Justine said. ‘It won’t take up much space. I promise.’
Justine’s ‘little finishing touch’ was a small cube of sponge steeped in kirsch and served in a ‘box’ of tempered dark chocolate, surrounded by a cherry syrup sauce, with a quenelle of vanilla ice cream. It was delicious. A perfect finishing touch.
‘Did you make this?’ I said.
She pondered for a moment or two. ‘Umm … mainly. But not the kirschwasser. I bought that at the off licence.’
‘Isn’t that cheating?’ I said. And we both laughed.
If I had known in advance that Justine’s dinner party was going to be a ‘dinner party for two’, I may well have discovered that I had a ‘previous engagement’. I mean … first there was the age difference: I was not quite 21; and Justine (as I later discovered) was almost 36. And I didn’t really know her. Not really. I knew Johnny because he had given me an after-school job in one of his businesses. And we had somehow ‘got on’. But Justine was just Johnny’s girlfriend. And now she wasn’t even that.
The glass of wine that we had had when I delivered Escort Beylikdüzü her ‘stuff’ and the coffee that we had had at The Finishing Touch were really the first times that we had ever really talked without Johnny being there. And yet, as I almost licked the last of the cherry sauce from my dessert plate, I couldn’t help feeling how lucky it was that I hadn’t had a previous engagement.
‘This has been very nice,’ I said. ‘Probably the nicest meal I have ever had — if you discount the cocktail sausages with tomato sauce at my fifth birthday party.’
‘I’m pleased that you liked it,’ Justine said. ‘And if you had wanted tomato sauce, you only had to ask. And now I have something that I’d like to show you.’
‘But I’m not sure that the light is quite right in here.’
Intriguing! But I followed her anyway. And suddenly we were in what I assumed was her bedroom. Where Justine began to take off her clothes. Slowly. Seductively.
‘Well?’ she said. She was wearing a black bra and a black half-slip. ‘What do you think? Am I fat?’
‘Umm … no. I don’t think so,’ I said. As I have already mentioned, even with her clothes on, Justine had a certain Rubenesque quality. And perhaps even more so dressed in a bra and half-slip (and whatever was beneath the half-slip). ‘No,’ I said. ‘No.’
Justine smiled. ‘And now?’ she said, as she removed her half-slip, letting it fall to the ground, and standing there in her bra, with matching black knickers and suspender belt.
‘You look pretty good to me,’ I said. (And she did.)
‘Good.’ And she slipped off her knickers and let them fall to the ground with her slip. ‘Give me your hand,’ she said.
It wasn’t the first time that I had had my hand on a warm vulva. But it was the first time with the lights on. My two or three previous experiences had been furtive fingerings under the cover of darkness. This was different. I glanced down and there was my hand, palm up, covering her fur-covered mound, with my fingers disappearing between her pale thighs.
‘Do you like that?’ she asked.
Of course I liked it. I liked it a lot. I could barely believe that it was happening. But even if it was only happening in my mind, I still liked. ‘I do,’ I said.
‘Good. I thought that you might,’ Justine said. And she moved her feet slightly. Not a lot. Just enough so that her plump nether lips parted slightly and my middle finger fell, effortlessly, into her warm, slick valley.
Justine smiled and pulled me closer to her. And then she began kissing my neck. ‘I think that you may be a little overdressed,’ she whispered between kisses.
‘In my defence, the invitation just said dinner,’ I said. ‘There was no mention of dress code.’
‘Don’t worry,’ she said. ‘I’m sure that we can work something out.’ And she began unbuckling my belt.
Once things got started, it all happened rather quickly. One moment she was undressing me, and the next we were on the bed, and I was inside her. I guess first times are often a bit unpredictable, aren’t they? And first first times are probably more unpredictable still. I’m afraid it was all over almost before it began. ‘Sorry,’ I said.
Justine smiled. ‘Don’t be sorry,’ she said. ‘That’s just our practice run.’
By the time that the morning sun was beginning to squeeze its way between the slats of the wooden Venetian blinds we had done it three times. And, on at least one occasion, I thought that Justine was probably going to wake up the entire neighbourhood.
As we stood sipping coffee in Justine’s kitchen — which, by some kind of magic, was once again immaculate — she asked me how I felt.
‘Well … I could probably have done with a tad more sleep,’ I said. ‘But that meal that you served last night was definitely the best meal I have ever had.’
‘I’m glad that you enjoyed it. But what about after dinner?’
‘Yes. I liked that too,’ I said. ‘I wasn’t expecting it. But I liked it. I liked it a lot.’
Justine reached out and squeezed my hand. ‘So did I,’ she said. ‘But I don’t want you to feel under any obligation. As nice as it was, last night was last night. What happens in the future is really up to you. You can walk away now — leaving me with some very happy memories. And neither of us will ever need to mention it again. Or ….’
‘Well, I still have most of a side of salmon in the fridge. Salmon. Sunday night supper. I’m sure that I can come up with something.’
‘I’ll see if I can find some wine,’ I said.
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