Iris was unsettled. Sheets tossed and legs dangling from the side of the bed. The heat from Dave's body repellent and the memory of another's brief but memorable contact has her hugging a pillow against her stomach, arms around it, in a sweet embrace. Iris has a girl crush and her new found sexual confidence scares her. It's hot, too hot, metaphorically and physically. The slow hum of a ceiling fan seems not to bother Dave, who sleeps fitfully until the 4am alarm.
Dianne. . . oh, Dianne. Tall, elegant, funny, interesting. Iris had never met anyone like her. After each class, they towelled down and lately had brought another change of clothes, spent evenings on balmy sidewalks eating supper, talking, laughing, drinking.
Dianne was different. Iris hadn't quite worked out how or why but her lack of inhibition was exhilarating. Another searcher for a sea change, she'd left her 'partner' after an ugly breakup and come to the quiet ocean side hamlet for some respite.
"I won't stay," she'd told Iris, "Wisemans is a pit-stop. Somewhere I can catch my breath, get my self strong and move on."
"So why here?" A still naive Iris sipped what passed for a Mojito in these parts.
"Why come to Wisemans Cove? It's a shit hole, there's nothing here but cows and surfers, slobs and country jerks. The best thing about this town is the Goddess, and Reya of course . . and this . . ."
She disparagingly points to her lightly minted cocktail, " . . .is the best they can do for a cocktail."
Iris is not a drinker, her bravado brought on by a little too much liquor.
"Iris, you're lovely. You have a beautiful body. You pole like a pro, yet you're terrified of taking a leap. Any kind of leap. Come with me when I go home, we can have so much fun. There's so much to do and see."
Iris is hurt by her new friend's accusation of being parochial but know she's absolutely right. She's lied to her husband now for over a month. Every Tuesday and Thursday, she'd been doing her Pole class, drinking with Dianne. . .in fact there had been times where both had skipped class and spread a rug on the beach, laid back and talked 'what if' scenarios. She wants to leave.
Dianne spoke little of her past. City girl, ex-model, does the pole thing to keep fit. She shied away from relationships other than to say that she'd been burned by one or two. Something about her was charismatic and charming.Their conversations were light and trivial but funny and exhilarating. Iris loved being in her company.
"Hey, it's late night Thursday, let's shop," Dianna had departed from their usual habit of grabbing a bite and sharing a drink. "Take me to this Seventh Goddess, let's try stuff on. Get sexy, take some selfies!"
Reya was surprised to see her employee on her night off.
"Hey Iris, taking advantage of the staff discount tonight?"
"Hi Reya. This is Dianna, we thought we might get risky if that's OK."
"Keep yer knickers on and have a blast!"
It had been a quiet evening with the exception of some shy man passing by the window every 20 minutes. Reya was happy for the company and with a new delivery, keen to have her assistant 'model' a few pieces.
"You know what," Reya is already flipping the 'closed' sign on the door, "Let's close early, we can have some fun, there's bubbly in the fridge."
Each picked the raciest of outfits, the raunchiest of corsets. . . stockings, suspenders, accoutrements and toys. Music played, champagne drunk, each cat-walked their fantasy gear. It began tame enough with lace and colour, but as the evening progressed and the bubbles lightened their spirits, their costumes became more burlesque. Dianne's gaze on Iris never fazed. Her stare intent, studying, as if under examination.
Freya noticed the attention lavished on Iris by Dianne. Preening, pinning, suggestions . . .she'd seen this before. The attentions of a recruiter on a younger subject. Had they been dealing drugs, she'd have called Dianne a pusher but said nothing about her concerns.
"Ok ladies, it's late. Iris, don't you have a husband to go home to?"
Iris giggles, swills down the last drops from her champagne flute.
"Yeah, thanks Reya, we had a blast." She casts a sassy eye towards Dianna.
As Iris turns to go into one of the dressing rooms, Reya notices Dianna's index finger tracing the nape of Iris' neck, then down along her spine and a friendly slap upon her butt cheek before she leaves her to change. Reya says nothing but the observation is recorded for posterity. She was once recruited in a similar way, but in a different circumstance. She can see the vipers before they poison, and this one had many fangs. The stakes are high for a vulnerable country girl should, she choose this path.
Dianna, dressed in a very alluring black and red corset, looks every part the burlesque queen, lace-topped stockings and high heels. She looks like a high class hooker, she looks good. Until, she turns like a pro and patronises Fraya.
"Don't you worry Mama, I'll take care of your liddle puddy tat!"
Freya has had enough.
"Last drinks ladies, time to go home."
As she draws the blinds on the doors, she spies the shy man, hovering beneath a streetlight, pays him little mind and douses the lights.
Dave might be a tired man, a hard working man, but he wasn't a stupid man. Although these days, he's becoming an angry man, a frustrated man. At first, three days' work in a lingerie shop was a tolerable escape for a city wife on a dairy farm. Iris had always made his dinner, left his lunch. But lately, there's work, and 'dancing' on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He wonders about Iris' dance partner, whether there's something untoward going on.
Poor man sat two days a week, in front of a microwave dinner, went to bed and barely felt his wife sidle in next to him. He'd enjoyed the 'lilac' sex, but she'd never been like that again. In fact, she'd barely said much to him beyond the mundane. Any attempt to discuss her dance classes was met with "I'm tired", or "They're fun. I learned the two-step."Then he'd been away making stud bookings, promoting the farm, winning prizes with Beatrice. But all this had been for her. He was building up the business to sell. To take her back to where she wanted to go, to become citified and gentrified. He might be a quiet man but he knew what she wanted and had his succession plan in mind.
He sat in his familiar armchair and uncharacteristically poured a scotch. Being awake this late is also, very uncharacteristic. She's not answering her phone and she's definitely not at the club. It's a country town, everything's closed by 10:30. The scotch does it's work and his mind begins to wonder whether he can still trust her, or whether she's found someone else.
Muse 1 "The Seventh Goddess"
Muse 2 "The Forensics of Spume"
Muse 3 "The Way of the North"
Muse 4 "Virginal Zoophilia"
Muse 5: "Stakes and Lies
Muse 6: "A Meal of Her Loins"
Muse 7: "Controlled Burn"
Muse 8: "Ghastly Truths"
Muse 9: "To Bury a Mountain"