Things added up when the sleek black Porsche targa arrived in the courtyard of our farm. That morning Petra had dressed in her smartest jeans and a new silk blouse. It wasn’t Christmas yet. The tree was up and dressed, the decorations were hung, but it wasn’t Christmas. Petra had looked by turn a little apprehensive and then exultant. It was as if she was being spun around until she felt giddy. Porsche’s are pretty impractical around farms. Our neighbors drove 4x4s. But when this one arrived, I sensed immediately that it wasn’t unexpected by my wife.
The woman who stepped out of that car was impressive. For one thing she had a mane of sleek blonde hair that looked absolutely perfect. For another she had a slim and a proud figure that was accentuated by the designer jeans that she wore. Her black leather boots looked expensive, although soon enough they would be muddied walking around our place. She didn’t speak immediately but took our the first of two holdall bags and handed them to me. It seemed evident that she was coming to stay. Petra hadn’t mentioned guests for Christmas. I shuddered. I’d made no extra provisions.
‘Please take my bags in, ‘ she directed curtly, ‘it looks as if it might snow.’ They were leather, the snow, if it came, wouldn’t harm them. I noticed her hands, immaculately manicured with perfect red nails. She wasn’t used to carrying anything anywhere. I took the bags in promising myself that I would quiz my wife about this and the woman followed me. She ducked a little beneath the doorway to the house and we entered the warmth of the Aga fed kitchen.
‘Chloe!!!’ exclaimed my wife. She simply dropped the cloth in her hand and hugged the woman. They hugged for several minutes, twisting each other about and saying things about college. It was too long, they should have stayed in touch! Petra had been at Oxford, so this woman was intelligent too. I started to guess what she might be, a barrister, a senior in some government department. She had authority about her.
‘Chloe is staying for Christmas, you don’t mind do you Ben?’
I stared at my wife. In truth, in front of a guest, you can’t say I do mind. You can’t say that, not close on Christmas.
‘No…no of course not’ I stammered.
I stared at them again and tried to picture them back at Oxford. They would have looked elegant.
‘Take Chloe’s bags and put them in our bedroom’ said Petra firmly. I blinked at her. If she knew the woman was coming surely the guest bedroom? If she knew she was coming then she would have made the guest bedroom ready.
‘Quickly!’ insisted Petra when I hesitated. I did as requested. Petra went to the drinks cabinet and a G&T was arranged after Chloe’s drive. They were tasting the concoctions which Petra makes up strong when I returned. My wife looked at me. I seemed an intrusion.
‘Why don’t you go and tack up two horses. When Chloe has finished her drink and changed, perhaps you can show her the farm.’ Petra smiled. It was a request….just. ‘Let Chloe ride Nimrod,’ Petra said firmly. Nimrod was Petra’s horse. It was a horse of some speed and sometimes belligerent. Petra blinked at me. ‘It will be fine! Chloe knows how to handle a horse…you hunt don’t you darling!’ Petra glanced across at her guest and she in turn smiled at me.
It was thirty more minutes before the woman came out. She was wearing immaculate black jodhpurs and black riding boots. She wore a silk blouse and a warm hacking jacket in a very dark tweed, that set off the ensemble perfectly. She didn’t look scared in the least. I took her through to the stables and showed her Nimrod. He was the biggest, the most powerful horse there. She gestured for me to cup my hands and then stepping on those rose up into the saddle. Looking up at her I felt like a hunt protestor must have felt. She looked imperious.
‘Crop’ she demanded.
‘You won’t need a crop with him, you’ll need brakes’ I assured her.
She pointed to where a collection of crops stood in a holder and I handed her one.
We started on the lower fields, down by the river. It was easier going there and the frost had ensured that the meadows weren’t boggy. I watched her raise Nimrod first to the trot, her body moving in complete rhythm with her mount and then up to the canter. The woman could ride. She rode very well indeed. I trailed her for at least three fields, watching her as though she was hunting down a fox.
When at last when we walked for a while, I asked her how she knew Petra? They were girlfriends reading history together she said. I nodded and she checked my expression. In truth I felt knackered having been up early tending the animals. She insisted that there was something wrong with her stirrup and asked me to get down and check it. There was nothing wrong with the stirrup, and nothing wrong with her perfect boot in that stirrup.
‘Petra was my lover’ she told me as I helped her boot into the stirrup again.
I guessed it. I had guessed it. A secret from the past. There were secrets, Petra kept secrets and insisted that some parts of her life were private. I’d liked that, the allure that it posed.
‘That’s not a problem is it Ben?’ I felt her lay the crop against the side of my face. With one flick she could have so easily cut me. I glanced up at the woman. Her face was hard. She was scowling down at me. This wasn’t a farce, it wasn’t some crazy seasonal fairy story. I gulped down a cold breath and started t cough. I started to pull my head away from her boot to appraise the woman and her sudden statement. But the crop was caught behind my ear.
‘Petra is my lover’ she continued, ‘so I expect us to have a quiet and a intimate and a co operative Christmas….do you understand?’
I made to move back again and she used the crop against my ear. It fucking well stung! When I put my hand up to cover my ear that got a thwack too. I glared at her.
‘Don’t even think of being stupid about this Ben. Petra is like me..she will always be a lesbian.’
I was about to beg to differ. We were married right? We were FUCKING WELL MARRIED! I rubbed my sore ear. A lesbian? My head felt muzzy. I wasn’t thinking too straight after that sharp pair of blows with the crop.
‘Petra is fond of you, but don’t mistake things Ben, our world is what matters. Do you understand?’
I took another sharp smack of the crop and this one caught me across the cheek. Fuck, that stung and it would mark too! I was smarting, searching for a meaning to all this. What sort of guest rides out with her host and beats him across the fucking face!? I thought of dragging the bitch out of the saddle but she reangled Nimrod. I could have been trampled. I’d never met a lesbian had I? I wasn’t sure? Were they aggressive? Could they be aggressive? It wasn’t what I thought a gay women would be like.
She brought Nimrod around to the other quarter and slapped her boot with the riding crop again. I was to come close in, bewildered, caught completely off balance. I was so shocked that I moved as directed and she ran the crop soothingly against my other cheek.
‘As long as you play by the rules, we will get along fine’ said Chloe. She sent me down a querying look. I stared at her like a lemon but then nodded.
‘Show me’ she insisted and tapped her riding boot with the crop.
Crazy, crazy bitch. I kissed her boot.
‘That’s better’ she insisted, her eyes narrowing, checking mine for any last retort. There was none. I was fucking well in shock! I was instructed to mount up again and we proceeded with the tour. She asked about farming, about the estate, the riding school that Petra run, the plans for glamping Yurts along the river each summer. It was as if nothing had happened. I rode behind her, my face smarting and my ego absolutely battered.
When we got back she dismounted and ordered me to attend to the horses before coming inside and unpacking her things in our bedroom. I was told curtly that I could move my ‘essentials’ to the guest room. I was not to quiz Petra. I noticed that the bitch had taken the riding crop with her. Going back into the house, marked across my face I felt a complete ass. I felt humiliated. Petra noticed the mark on my cheek. She noticed and looked again, but then returned to the coffee that she and Chloe were making.
‘Ben is unpacking my clothes into our bedroom’ she told Petra nonchalantly, ‘Ben and I had a little chat didn’t we Ben?’
She cast me a demanding look.
‘yes’ I said lamely, dull eyed.
‘No doubt after Christmas Ben will need a lot more teaching but for now we don’t need to explain much do we?’
Another withering look came my way.
I nodded like a zombie. I wasn’t entirely sure I understand a damned thing. I wasn’t sure what to do. I could have told the bitch to get out and pushed past that crop, but what sort of reaction might Petra have given? She could be as feisty as Nimrod sometimes. So I unpacked Chloe’s things, feminine, designeresque, expensive and boudoir. There was a strap on dildo, and there was another with a strap and a mouth piece. I stared at the objects. I’d never touched their like before. I’d never actually seen ‘toys’ in the flesh as it were. I stowed them in the drawer beside the bed and then sorted out some of my clothes to camp with next door.
I sat on the guest bed. I sat on the guest bed and shook. It was like I had been dropped into a movie script. None of which was familiar. It was like one of those dreams where you want to run but your feet are leaden.
‘Coffee Ben’ shouted my wife. I was meant to join them. I was meant to join them and play house in some way. I went through and took the coffee from Petra. She was wearing a new watch, an expensive watch, a chronograph. Chloe wore exactly the same model. I stared at it.
‘An early Christmas present from Chloe, she brought it in from the car…do you like it?’ Petra showed me, moving her wrist so that the watch caught the lights from our Christmas tree. It was an extravagant present.
‘It’s incredible’ I admitted touching it, fuck the whole situation was incredible!
Chloe took that as approval, a submission at least.