DEEP AND CRISP AND EVEN
While Gardenia had kept herself to herself for the first twenty two years of her charmed life, for the next ten she played the field with all her might and enthusiasm. Gardenia Racebottom was as bed worthy as a girl could be. Her welcome mat had seen the coming and goings of several invited gentleman callers and one or two less desirable types had also managed to coax they way into her affections helped in great part by that double edged sword, strong drink. It would have been unkind to suggest that most of her suitors were actually more interested in the Racebottom baking fortune rather than Miss Racebottom herself. But nevertheless if a survey had been conducted and the truth extracted from the respondents, the fact that Gardenia was the sole heiress to, at the last estimate, a two hundred and forty million pound inheritance would have been a big contributory factor to what went on after the lights went off.
Gardenia was one of those girls that didn't really show much early promise. She was what was politely described as being rather a "plain" girl. She graduated from ponies to horses when the other girls at her boarding school were sliding into men from boys. At university she did get a boyfriend and the two of them read poetry together and went for afternoon tea at "The Olde Bunne Shoppe". Holding hands was as exciting for the couple as joining the extreme sports club was for others and the relationship was like that of brother and sister. Her "boyfriend" was the sibling she never had. Their first kiss was also sadly their last but Gardenia had tasted a hint of the cream on top of the milk. She thought that she would like more and set her milking stool out accordingly. Like Sandy in "Grease" she underwent something of a transformation and started to turn heads. Her light came out from under her bushel. Even her bookish tutor noticed the chrysalis to butterfly moment. Gardenia became sought after among her male colleagues and some of the female ones too.
It was Jed who provided her with her first full on encounter and in his Austin Healy Gardenia succumbed to his eager advances. The sound and smell of leather car seats provided a backdrop to the whole mysterious act. Gardenia embraced the world of sex (she actually embraced Jed with such fervour that he couldn't control himself) and the more she tried it, the more she liked it. From “Early Doors” Jed there was Timothy, “Tiny Tim”, as she was to discover and from Timothy she moved on to Seb, “Sideways Seb”, who although wasn't the most active of partners did provide Gardenia with her first orgasm which she experienced quietly but with a great deal of pleasant surprise while astride the laid back Sebastian.
Rupert, “Rubbish Roop”, was fun to be with but not very good at doing it and Craig, “Clinical Craig”, was just too experimental, too clinical. Quentin was rather rough and liked it from behind which didn't always agree with Gardenia's sense of direction. Brook was a great kisser and always bought flowers. Sammy, “Burgundy Sam”, smelt nice but tasted of wine sometimes. Don was moody and she discovered after some weeks, married too. Brian snored and drank too much and Ben, “Big Ben”, didn't believe in any foreplay. Stan, “Stan the man”, had hard working hands and didn’t always shave and Chuck's breathe wasn't that pleasant. Trevor always said "Thank you" afterwards which annoyed Gardenia greatly and Simon, “Simon the sock”, used to keep his socks on and could never stay overnight. Frankie, “Frank the fuck”, was the best ever and she felt very comfortable with him until he told her, with some considerable embarrassment, to look out for his sexually transmitted disease. Luke wooed her back from a few months abstinence but his fondness for the wacky backy made him too silly and vacant so she had another brief fling with Sammy, “Burgundy Sam”, before Maxwell appeared.
Max was different from all the others. He was older, nearly forty, and seemed to really care about Gardenia for the woman she was rather than the “bang with the bucks” as she’d overheard one of her briefer liaison’s describing her. (“Kneading the dough” was another she’d caught). Bit by bit she found herself falling in love with him. He was the man you could take home to meet Mummy and Daddy without any worries. Max always said the right thing. He had the confidence to get on with every body. Gardenia's mother was instantly won over although her father was less convinced.
"He's too damn smooth for my liking," he said to his wife after one Sunday luncheon.
Gardenia’s father was like that with all Gardenias’ male friends and in his simple view there wasn’t a man on the planet that was good enough for his little girl. Had he any inkling about the sort of traffic that had travelled along his daughter’s carriageway or indeed just rested on her hard shoulder, then he would have been beside himself. It would not of course have been anything that Gardenia had done wrong. Far from it. His daughter was the apple of his eye or more appropriately, the bread in his oven, and she could do no wrong at all. He didn’t like Maxwell and that was that.
Nevertheless Gardenia and Max became an item. The two of them seemed to enjoy each other's company and Gardenia put the lid on her sampling tin and became a one trick pony. At thirty two it was time for her to consider settling down and maybe Max was the man. He didn't show any traits that Gardenia could complain about and in her heart of hearts she couldn't wait for Maxwell to pop the question.
Maxwell Deep (he was one of the Deep's from Hertfordshire) wasn’t as pure as the driven snow. In fact it was “snow” that was getting the better of him. He had acquired an expensive and addictive habit from his stressful hours in the City that involved sniffing white powder up his nostrils or rubbing it onto his gums. His nick name was “Deep and Crisp and Even” in a rather too obvious reference to the “snow that lay round about” when ever Maxwell or his mates took off for the rest room at work or in crowded places or virtually any hard flat surface in private.
Max knew that Gardenia didn’t approve of his habit.
“I can’t understand any man who needs to take drugs. It’s just a sign of weakness,” she said to Max and her parents one day. Her father, who was on his fourth large whiskey and soda, agreed. He didn’t disagree with anything his daughter said.
Maxwell’s habit was kept under wraps from Gardenia and sure enough he proposed to her in Paris one week-end when the two of them took the Eurostar to the continent.
The wedding was the sort that a wealthy father would put on for his only spoilt daughter. The “do” at Babington House, in rural Somerset, was a glitzy affair with a celebrity chef overseeing the menu for the four hundred guests. The marquee down by the lake looked like a mini canvass version of the Sydney Opera House and the tables, all forty of them, were themed around Aladdin and his Magic Lamp (or as one of the more inebriated guests rather unkindly put it Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda Camp). The bride’s look verged rather dangerously towards that of Little Bo Peep but the outfit pleased her beaming father even though several in the gathering thought mutton dressed as lamb.
The wedding day would have been a wonderful occasion for all concerned and worth every penny of the five hundred pounds a head the event had cost. Most of the guests had a ball but when the bride discovered her groom snorting a fat line of coke in the en-suite, the tears came thick and fast. Gardenia’s father was of course outraged but even more so when, having decided to have it out with his new son in law, he found him in Babington’s billiard room straddled across Gardenia’s mother on the green baize with both of them obviously engrossed with kissing the pink.
Gardenia slipped into depression, her mother into divorce proceedings and almost one year later her father had no trouble arranging the slipping of Maxwell’s tightly bound body into one of his industrial ovens, turning up the heat until the flesh started to bubble like a burnt pizza. Max was burnt to a crisp. The police couldn’t prove anything although there was a lot of finger pointing and some awkward interviews.
Gardenia and her father felt that they had got even.
“Deep and crisp and even.” Gardenia stroked her father’s hand and looked lovingly into his baker’s eyes. How could she possibly love any other man?
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