by H.St Vincent Beechey

I thought it best to be perfectly honest with Bonnie; after all, I would need her intelligent cooperation if I was to solve my current problem. It was no time for anyone to go off half-cocked, so I told her everything that happened that evening.

After dinner, I found myself alone with Magda Schimmelbusch, the widowed daughter of our hostess, the Baroness. How this was arranged, I had failed to notice. According to Bonnie, she had been swept along by the surge of guests on a lightning tour of an inspection conducted by Gisela. Bonnie hadn’t known how to counter this.

‘At first, I thought you and Magda were included in the party; but when I looked back, there you were leading off about operating systems, completely oblivious of our departure. And Magda looked as though she was lapping it up.

‘I turned back to fetch you but the Baroness took me by the arm, promising to show me some really historical family manuscripts. There was nothing I could do.

‘What happened to you?’ she asked.

‘I was shocked,’ I admitted. ‘At first, it all seemed very innocent. I had avoided the invitation to hear the personal details of her married life and had got the conversation safely back on computers, and then it started

‘Can you imagine? Here we are, talking about computer hardware, serial and parallel Com-ports and somehow, suddenly, we are talking about male and female connections! I thought at first that I had misheard, but the allusions got even more basic.’

‘What did you do?’ Bonnie was indignant and preparing herself to be critical of ME. That’s all I needed!

‘What I always do. I played dumb. Whenever this happens I become master of the single entendre. I completely refuse to admit the existence of a double meaning.

‘She could hint all she liked, but what could she do when I persisted in talking about real hardware. There were times when I had to act puzzled. That was a dangerous gambit, but I gambled on the fact that she could not become really explicit with her mother’s guest on a first meeting.’

‘If I had been you, I would have put her back in her box, and no mistake.’ Even imagining it made Bonnie angry.

‘What good would that have done? If I said “Thanks, but no thanks!” I would have made an enemy, ruined our visit to this interesting place and possibly initiated a feud with the whole von Eisenberg family. No, the secret is to “Not-Know” what she is on about. I’m sure she is convinced that I’m as thick as two short planks and I intend to keep it that way. I’ll need your help though’. She nodded acceptance.

‘Well, firstly, make sure you do not leave us alone together if you can help it. You are my Personal Assistant after all.

‘Secondly, through actions only, not words, be a little possessive of me to hint at our relationship. Don’t overdo it, and above all show no overt jealousy. Remember, we do not admit that anything is happening. Be friendly with Magda, you are very good at “People”. Above all, “Not-Know” any veiled remarks. Literal Meanings every time.

‘Really, when you think of it, we can have a lot of fun with this’

‘Charlie Quinn, sometimes you can be really wicked. You have such a devious mind.’ Bonnie was entering into the spirit of the game.

Bonnie didn’t realise it, but I was doing a number on her too. Turn the whole thing into an intellectual exercise, and you defuse all those messy emotions. Bonnie was right; I am sneaky.

We had been talking in her bedroom, accessed through our communicating door. I turned to go back into my room.

‘Charlie,’ she said softly, ‘Would you like to stay?’

‘Well, it might be the safe thing to do. Just in case the daughter of the house is given to sleepwalking’

Much later a drowsy Bonnie nudged me.

‘Charlie,’

‘Yes, Bonnie?’

‘Weren’t you tempted? She is a very attractive woman.’

‘A very attractive female predator, you mean. And besides, I’m already in a relationship, or haven’t you noticed. One is quite enough to cope with. Let Miss Mantis do her preying somewhere else. I don’t want my head bitten off.’

I was quite serious. My relationship with Bonnie, which I was learning to handle, would serve as a wonderful guard against unwanted involvements. I turned over again to go to sleep. I felt quite safe.

It was a good solution.

 

© Copyright H.St V.Beechey August 1996

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