Call Me Blair
Unsure if it's the outcome of the Japanese Whisky cocktails she had inhaled at lunch but her thinking that she could hideaway on the Piccadilly line at this time of the day was ill-conceived. Judging by the luggage cases packed in among the passengers in the carriages, one could only assume that a huge number of flights had just descended on Heathrow a like a broken dam. In addition to that, the tube seems to be lurching about that bit more plaguing her discomfort.
Some two hours before, Jessica had walked into James's private office checking on the decision about her bid to design the Emirati hotel planned for nearby Knightsbridge. They'd chatted for a bit as they always did, James being so easy to talk to - level headed, smart and in control. Matter of fact in the nine years she had known him she cannot recall ever hearing him with a raised voice. Not when Charlotte left the engine running with the key in the ignition of the Range Rover he had just bought her, and it got stolen and not when a partner had walked out with a design he had conceived which later netted that partner millions. He was the kind of guy that when he spoke, you listened, whether or not you planned on doing so. Even his stride seemed orchestrated because nothing James did was out of frivolity. And it was James who had suggested she took the rest of the afternoon off, saying that she had become married to her work.
As Jessica walked out of his office, she joked.
Right, I'm off to find myself a husband!
As she said it, her stomach sank, and she could feel her eyes welling up.
He looked back up from the design he was looking at just in time to meet her eyes as she was turning to close the door.
(Now James was the only person to call her that, an inside joke since their university days.)
Let me know if you need me to screen any of them for you!
Trying to make the heart light of the situation he knew she still battled with. And she smiled.
Go enjoy yourself, I will call as soon as I have confirmation.
Jessica was now walking or rather gliding over to her friends already seated at their usual table. Of the three friends, she was the shortest at five feet six inches, but you could spot her from miles away by the way she walked. Today was no different, her navy blue skater dress switching behind her as she strutted over to her friends' table in her matching navy blue heels turning a few heads in the process.
Jessica, Anna and Charlotte, had been friends since they met at university seven years ago while studying design and architecture. As a matter of fact, it was Anna who had introduced Jessica to her now ex-husband who had run off to the Turks and Caicos Islands with all her savings, a holiday villa she would no longer have access to and also left her with a mountain of debt. Having to sell her home, and almost having to part ways with the design firm she had just started. Something that Anna had apologised for profusely although Jessica had told her to separate the two situations. And it was Charlotte after one such lunch date with the girls where Jessica had ranted on about how stupid she felt, had told James of Jessica's plight following her divorce. And James, who had always loved Jessica's unique and fresh approach to her designs (and maybe even Jessica) offered her a partnership at his architectural firm when she had hit the foundations. It was also James who had told her that her now ex-husband was not the man for her. Later admitting some of that was impacted by his own selfish ego.
Anna moved into the centre of the semi-circular sofa leaving Jessica and Charlotte sat either side of her. It was an unwritten peace treaty between them, as both ladies were quite headstrong.
The drinks were being delivered as Jessica sat down.
I took the liberty of ordering your favourite drink, Jessica!
Anna's arms gushed out to greet Jessica with a hug. Jessica then reached over and hugged Charlotte.
Anna short for Anastasia was blonde, blue-eyed and leggy but that's where the stereotype ended. An only child and daughter, she came from a well to do family in St Petersburg and her father wanted her married to the son of the leading construction company there.
Having had the best of education growing up in Russia, she had a strong command of the English language and spoke with an organic English accent. It was on a flight back from a girls holiday to Grand Turks celebrating Anna's twenty-fifth birthday that she had met her now-husband. The three of them were sat mid-row of four seats in business class. Anna and Jessica facing forward in the two middle places with Charlotte next to Anna on the aisle seat facing the opposite direction. In the aisle seat next to Jessica and facing the opposite direction was Jason, returning from his annual visit to his parents. Jessica remembers Anna saying she liked his dark brown eyes. Jessica also remembers swapping places with Jason so he could sit next to Anna as oppose to them chatting and laughing over her. There was undoubtedly love in the air, and whether or not the Mile High Club indicted new club members on that night flight, no one knows for sure. But Jessica remembers waking up during the flight to find the outer dividers raised.
So what have you ladies been up to?
Jessica asked as she took the first sip of her glass of Old Passioned, straightening up from the hit of the Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky.
Charlotte daintily presented the latest designer handbag in red, she had just bought as if it were a newborn baby. And as she did, two ladies sat at an opposite table gushed.
And I was on hand to stop her from buying one in all three colours.
But that was Charlotte, the socialite of the group with a surname and postcode to match. If it was worth having - she was going to have it. And that was how she ended up marrying James Addington. Anna and Charlotte were in the second year at university while Jessica and James, who were friends since first year were in their final year. Jessica was James's plus one when James's then-girlfriend bailed on him last minute. Although Jessica had things to do that weekend, she couldn't think of anything worse than spending an entire weekend at a country estate, especially when it involved sharing the same room with the James Addington. Charlotte and James's family connections go way back, way way back like The Ghan. And like The Ghan, you needed time to go through it, from whose family was coerced into investing into White Star Line and lost it all with the famous ship sinking, to whose son was responsible for a joy riding plane crash that killed both sons, neither of whom were fully licenced to fly.
It was at this wedding that Charlotte reacquainted herself with the lovesome James Addington and it was at this wedding Charlotte crossed paths with a very reserved Jessica.
There was always a little spark between James and Jessica, it initially stemmed from their appreciation of each other's work, and at some point, it may have developed into a little more. But they never sought to ignite the spark, for one Jessica always felt she would return to the West Indies after her studies and to the floundering relationship she'd left behind. While up until that weekend, James was in a relationship. But if the wheels were ever going to turn between James and Jessica that weekend, Charlotte was sure to put a spoke in that wheel. From interrupting their dancing to inviting herself into their one on one conversations, Jessica saw Charlotte switch from manipulative to salacious and back. James being the affable guy he was, did his best to accommodate them both but at one point had to explain to Charlotte that as his guest, it was his obligation to ensure she (Jessica) felt welcomed and had a good time.
They left the reception after three in the morning and had just got back to their room when Charlotte called James to say she had fallen over and hurt herself. James being the considerate man he was left and Jessica never saw him again until after midday, the next day. Her Coco de Mer lingerie game plan was now indeed salted. Sometime after that, the level headed Mr James Addington was engaged. Two years later, when Charlotte finished university, they were married in the same family country house estate.
They have no kids of their own.
Anna, on the other hand, had become unbelievably motherly and gave birth to two beautiful biracial daughters in two years and Jessica is godmother to both.
They ordered six dishes from the set menu, for the entire table as they always did. Plus the dishes would all turn up at the same time, making it super instagrammable for Charlotte's instagram posts. Without fail, Jessica had ordered her two favourite dishes which included the kimchi fried rice with pork, because she loved how the flavours kicked about in her mouth. The other being the Chilean sea bass. Added to that, was Charlotte's favourite - white miso soup and tiger prawn tempura. Anna topped off the choices with some salmon and avocado maki and chicken wing skewers.
No matter the time of day or day of the week, the atmosphere in the restaurant was more Piccadilly Circus than Berkeley Square, so that no matter what mood you came in with, you were almost guaranteed to leave feeling an octave or two better. At lunch, it was often packed out with office workers from the nearby wealth management and blue-chip companies, ladies catching up with each other or the lunchtime Japanese whisky sipping aficionados.
In between mouthfuls of salmon and avocado maki, Charlotte was telling the ladies she would be off to the Middle East again shortly with James. Really she was telling Anna as Jessica already knew - she worked with him. Addington and Partners had won an Emirati contract to design a modernist and exclusive set of residential apartments in Belgravia. Charlotte was now begging Anna to join her, but Anna would never leave her babies for the world and taking them on such a short break, one that was mainly a shopping trip - was definitely a no-no. Anna was a fulltime mother, and she could not see herself doing anything else, matter of fact, she wanted more kids, but her husband had put the restraining belt on that.
And if Anna had a restraining belt in place, Charlotte was suffering from no such inhibitions, as she was now telling the ladies about her new bedtime stories. You didn't need to go bed with James to know what he was like at storytime, you only needed some time with Charlotte. And even after five years of being married, James appeared to have remained proficient with his storytelling. Adding a twist to his story, he introduced a third guest, and both ladies were now peering at Charlotte with curious eyes.
Anna was the first to pipe up.
Who is it? Anyone we know?
Let's put it this way, said Charlotte
James wins a Primetime Emmy for outstanding lead and excellence in creative arts each time I let him call me Blair!
Thankfully neither Charlotte nor Anna connected with the name. Still, Jessica was now doing her best to stop herself from spitting a mouthful of Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky across the table.
In an effort to raise a smokescreen, she uttered.
I think the waiter brought me the wrong whisky!
Said Anna, raising her arm to catch the attention of a waiter.
It was in that very minute, James chose to call, so pleased to be saved by the bell, and in anticipation of the good news, Jessica answered and placed the call on audible.
Blair! Congrats! Your design secured the contract!