Chapter 4 – Two black dresses

Why had she ever agreed to this? It sounded like a good idea at the time. Actually, it didn't at all, but she had been persuaded. A fancy pants party at the Home Secretary's house. House? Residence? What did you call a Cabinet Minister's house? Obviously not a flat, but... Shit Pullman, so out of your depth.

And you'd think I'd make it easy for myself. Sandra thought. But no. She had decided that the only suitable thing she could possibly wear was a very cute very dark blue dress. The blue dress that just happened to be crumpled at the bottom of her wardrobe smelling a little bit too much like the merlot she was drinking last time she wore it. So, obviously, the only thing to be done is a spot of last minute shopping. At 4:40 on a Saturday. Jesus Christ Pullman, get your shit together.

Organisation. That's what it came down to, George thought. You could do anything if you were organised and had a list. A list was the key. You could run a country with a comprehensive to do list. George simply didn't understand disorganised people. It was just laziness. Throwing a cocktail party for 80 was no problem with a list. Well, it was a lot of hard work, but George knew everything would go smoothly.

She smiled to herself as she applied a thick stroke of eyeliner to an upper lid. She'd had so many years of this routine, but never tired of it. The getting ready. The promise of a night out. Well, a night in, in this case. But that made it all the better. Being the host. Choosing the mood, the atmosphere. The food, the liquor, the tone.

She took a large swallow of chilled sauvignon and smiled. More eyeliner, more mascara. She knew her eyes were her best feature. Well, the feature people commented on in polite company. She happened to notice that a lot of the time, men happened to glance a little bit lower, to catch a glimpse of her two other "assets". But for now, her focus was on her eyes. And the sauvignon.

25 minutes! That was it. And even that was more than she knew she really deserved. 25 minutes to get ready. From whoa to go. This was not how she wanted tonight to go. She wanted John to be proud to show up with her, to want to keep her around. But, once again, she had too much to do, but not enough time to do it properly.

Sandra heard the buzzer as she threw some mascara on. Shit, he's early, Sandra thought. Make up only just started and hair a mess. Shit. She grabbed her robe and put one arm in as she buzzed him up.

George looked at the finished product and smiled. She knew she was carrying a little bit of extra weight around the middle (who wasn't) but besides that, she was happy with what she saw. She turned as she heard footsteps up the hall. Might as well give the ensemble it's full effect.

"My darling you look lovely. Absolutely delightful." She could tell from Neil's face that he meant it.

"You don't look so bad yourself. You certainly know how to wear a tuxedo." George wasn't lying. Neil took her hands and went to kiss her. George moved her head to the side at the last minute.

"Sorry. Lipstick."

"Of course." Neil moved his hands from hers and rested them on her hips. He looked her up and down and sucked a breath in. "Jesus George, how much did that dress set me back. It's..."

George knew she looked good. Damn good. So good that it appeared Neil didn't have the words in his vocabulary. Exactly the look she was going for. She knew the dress was perfect for a night like this. Black silk. Fitting, but not tight. Well, maybe just a little tight. It was sleeveless with a highish neck, which sat just as where the curve of her collar bone. It sat above below the knee, but had a spilt up the side that was just a tiny bit risque. She knew that's where Neil's eyes were.

She put her hands over his, still on her hips. "Well, the wife of the Home Secretary can't look second rate now, can she."

Sandra applied her mascara for the second time, while John's nose cut a trail from the base of her neck, up through her hair. One hand on her breast, slipping back under her robe; the other on her hip.

"Jesus John you're distracting. I can't hold this straight while you're doing that." He came up for air, and looked at her in the mirror. He tilted his head to one side. "Really? I wasn't sure I was having much effect." But the look on his face told a different story. He knew exactly what he was doing.

"We're already late. Really late. And I need five minutes. Why don't you get us both a drink?"

That look again. "Really? Feeling a little parched there Sandra?" John barely managed to keep a straight face, as he moved his fingers slowly but deliberately.

"Look, go and find your trousers and pour us some wine. I'll get sorted and then we can go." John pulled a face in the mirror. She pulled a face back. "The sooner we go, the sooner we can leave and get back here." John's hands dropped to his side and he left her bathroom without another word. Sandra smiled to herself. Why do men always look ridiculous wearing a business shirt and no trousers, whereas women look anything but?

Sandra pulled her robe closed again and walked to her new dress hanging on the back of her bedroom door. Black, silky, fitting, with a slit up one side. She hoped it was the perfect dress for this sort of occasion, but when it came down to it, she'd taken a bit of a gamble. She knew the old adage – show off either the boobs or the legs, but not both. She knew her boobs were better than her legs, but she was also pretty sure that there wouldn't be a lot of cleavage on display. And she didn't want to embarrass John. So she'd gone for a much too expensive little black number. High necked, but the split up the side meant it was still sexy. Still a bit of her. Just a flasher, richer bit of her.

She pulled the dress over her head and looked at herself in the mirror and decided that the 'just got out of bed' hair is working for her this evening. Or maybe it's the smile.

"John, can you give me a hand with this zip? It's going up this time."