Monday, 13 January 2014

Shebug Origin: West Coast Chapter Five

    Victoire lived her shallow dreams of unlimited funds and high visibility. Peter and his photogenic young wife featured regularly on the social columns as San Francisco’s golden couple.
   His lawyers occasionally chided Peter about the lack of a pre-nuptial agreement and his wife’s undeniable capricious streak. Victoire made demands and often overstepped reasonable bounds by purchasing art and artefacts with little thought of price. She was obsessive about Bassadai’s success and gave her opinion on everything down to whom to fire and whom to promote.
   But at the same time, she gave Peter credibility and envious patina. Victoire rated in the top ten of California’s best-dressed list, took her hostess role seriously, didn’t nag or push for children.
   His frail mother became smitten the minute she laid eyes on Victoire. “She’s so classy, Peter,” she said every time she spoke of her daughter-in-law. “A gorgeous girl!” Peter felt grateful seeing his beloved mother so full of happiness and at peace.
   Peter’s career soared at optimal speed, and his company earned more money than he ever dreamed of. He saw Victoire as a Godsend and wouldn’t dream of crossing words with her.
   For the first eighteen months of marriage, Peter had been relatively faithful. But during his solo trip to Asia, Peter rekindled his need for outside alliances.
  “Buy her a house,” one lover recommended.
  “What?” Confusion took hold of his features. “And how do you plan for me to be in two places at one time, Rupert?”
   The man rolled his eyes with exasperation. “You silly sausage,’ he reprimanded in an English accent.          “Find her a charming place outside the city she can do up from scratch, a house with character but in dire need of refurbishing. Women positively adore decorating! Why do you think I’m in the business, darling?”

   Victoire was unable to sleep. Peter left on a last-minute overnight trip to Los Angeles. She reached for the illuminated alarm clock, growled and headed for the kitchen to make herself a cup of hot milk. Then she padded towards Peter’s study. Rather than switch on the study light, she ambled straight to a Chinese gold and black lacquer cabinet and flicked on its switch illuminating four superb Fabergé eggs.
   “Beautiful,” she gloated, running her highly polished deep red nail against the spotless glass, “and all mine.” The third one she acquired, produced for Tsar Nicholas II, remained her favourite. Her fingers itched to touch her it. Victoire set down her cup of milk and located the hidden key across the study in semi-darkness. On her way back, she stumbled on her full-length satin robe and dropped it.
   She swore in French and hunkered down on all fours in search of the cabinet key but found nothing.    “What the hell,” she mumbled, sticking her arms under the sofa. Her hands fumbled blindly and brushed against something. It didn’t feel like the key. Curious, she stretched as far as she could until her grasp was complete. Sitting on her haunches, she looked questioningly at a dark manila envelope. She got up and took it to Peter’s mahogany desk and turned on the reading lamp.
   The red envelope carried no markings and was taped down. She reached for the silver and turquoise enamelled letter opener and carefully pried it open.
   Photographs spilled onto the desk leaving Victoire’s mouth agape. Her senses instantly came into full alert. Her fingers rapidly spread out the material, and her eyes took in the full impact of Peter’s infidelities. The obscene nature of the landscape recorded her husband cavorting with other men in all manner of positions, poses and multiple partner configurations. Two in particular made her cast iron innards turn to mush: it depicted Peter looking half-dead, barely visible under a sheer scarf physically aroused while his partner stood twisting the knot around his neck. She shoved the photographs back into the red manila and stormed back to her bedroom her hackles raised.      Victoire tossed and turned like a crackling sausage on a grill but knew better than immediately confront her husband.
Digesting bad news required a handful of beats as did hatching well laid plans.

# # # #

   The timing could not have been better for Peter. Or Victoire.
   “Wake up, Victoire.”
   She rubbed her eyes and stared dumbfounded at her husband. “Aren’t you supposed to be in the office?”
   “Not on your birthday, my lovely. Get dressed and meet me in the dining room for a quick breakfast.”
  “But I thought we were meeting the Miller’s for brunch.”
   “No buts! I have a surprise for you!”
   Fifteen minutes later, Victoire appeared wide-awake consumed with curiosity.
  “Bring a wrap, just in case,” he suggested as they made ready to leave.
    “But I’m wearing a jacket.”
     Peter smiled mysteriously, “Shhhh!”
     Bradley waited with the engine running.
   An hour and a half later, the car snaked its way towards the coastline and stopped in front on a cliff side house partially covered in cypress tress.
    “Bradley, you know what to do.”
  “Yes, Mr. Prentice,” he replied holding open the door.
    A gust of wind came out of nowhere and whipped Victoire’s hair out of place. “Where are we going? I didn’t know there was a restaurant out here,” she inquired, feeling the flame of excitement growing with every step.
   The twinkle in Peter’s eyes danced about like Rumpelstilskin before a bonfire. “Close your eyes and hold on to my arm, promise?”
    Piqued, she did as she was told. “Peter, what is going on?” she laughed.
    Bradley scurried up to the house to set up the picnic basket. First, he took out two champagne flutes and uncorked a bottle.
    The smell of the Pacific filled her lungs. The further she walked, the stronger the sounds of the surf. She bit her lip dying to know what he had in store for her.
     “Okay, Victoire, you may open your eyes!” 
    She squeezed his arm as she opened them. They stood in front of a modern structure of wood and stone blending into the cliff.
    Victoire turned to him after running her feasting her senses and said reverently, “IIt could easily pass a Frank Lloyd Wright, it’s so amazing…. Who’s inside?”
    Peter clapped appreciatively. “Bravo, designed by the man himself, and no owned by you…. Happy birthday, my beautiful wife!”

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