Chapter 11:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 263

Chapter 11

Exhausted from doing their normal work as well as advancing the new magazine, Maggie and Jack enjoyed being thrust back into their seats when the Air New Zealand jet powered off Auckland Airport and headed for Melbourne.

"Oh I'm in heaven, we're on our way," yawned Maggie.

As soon as permitted, Jack went for an early walk because he was bored: Maggie was asleep and drinks were not yet being served.

"Hello Jack." A flight attendant wearing an apron and mitt was removing foil-covered dishes of something from an oven and passing them to a colleague who was placing them into a stainless steel trolley.

The greeter was pert brunette and looked very lively. The companion was a sloe-eyed blonde who worked while flicking her gaze between Jack and her workmate, a know-all smile on her lips.

But Jack didn't know who the greeter was. If you've messed around with a woman like that you'd not likely to forget her. Even if you had simply been introduced to her you would remember, just in case you met again at a party and she was alone.

"I'm Sue Everitt - daughter of Peggy and Max."

"Oh, how are they?"

"Fine. You photos and write up of their house were absolutely wonderful. The architect must have landed commissions through that exposure because he's been back three times with potential clients to make an inspection. It's well over a year since you published your article."

"I'm sorry, Sue. I can't remember you being there, yet I remember the picture of you in their bedroom - pulling up the front of your dress with your teeth, revealing very white pants."

"Yes," giggled Sue, but not softly enough to avoid filling the ear of her companion who was barely managing to keep her tray level.

"Stop it, Jo. If you must know it's a photo taken by dad when I was three."

"Do you still go in for that kind of exhibition," Jack asked slyly.

Jo dropped a tray of dishes and cursed, unladylike.

"Please go, Jack. Will catch you later. Passengers are not supposed to hear our filthy language."

The meal arrived and Jack blew into Maggie's ear.

"Are we there?"

"Madam's order has arrived," Jack said, feeling her sitting up beside him while he eyed the following drinks trolley trying to decide between beer, wine, spirits, juice or mineral water.

"Don't waste your time - you know whatever you ruminate now, when you're asked you'll mumble, ‘White still wine please. Two'."

"Gawd, am I that predictable?"

"Now that you mention it, over food and drink, yes. On the other hand, when challenged you become erratic."

"Gawd, am I that predictable?"

"Now that you mention it, yes."

The male cabin attendant serving the late breakfast glanced at Jack, flitting ‘a friendly smile of the sky' at him - Jack mused, as required by the Airline Manual, Chapter 303, section seven, subsection 17, paragraph 3, or wherever it was that prescribed such things.

Teeth shone as he nodded and said, "Sir?" and offering Jack an omelet.

The mustached flight attendant then raised his left haunch, draped his left arm over the top of the seat directly in front of Jack (Jack the journalist always alert, noting the color of the attendant's tie matched the seat cover pretty well). Dropping a right hand on to his cocked hip, this debonair man of the skies toothily said, expansively, "Madam - would you like it hot or cold?"

Jack wasn't quite sure he said that; perhaps he said ‘Warm or cold entr, madam?' It didn't really matter because the practiced flirt had blown Jack's theory that all male flight attendants preferred men; Jack was grateful to have that belief corrected.

He watched Mr Mustachio lean over him and flicking open a serviette to gently tuck it between Maggie's breasts, an action Maggie obviously enjoyed. Watching the attended as he progressed down the aisle it fascinated Jack to see him win a number of soft friendly glances from women who might normally savage any strange male who intruded into their comfort zone anywhere but strapped in an aircraft. It indicated a good training program and should be complimented.

Someone appeared alongside Jack.

"Ah, Jack. Please hand me your trays. Peter take these away please. Jack would you and your companion follow me for a surprise."

Oh, lordy. Jack knew were they were heading for a business class upgrade!


Sue walked them through into first class.

"Maggie - this is Sue Everitt - I did her parent's house 20 months ago."

"Oh yes, the Everitt house out of Masterton. I read that one with great interest."

"Sue performs wonderful things with her teeth..."

"A return to economy is only a few paces away Jack."

"Ah, yes. Sorry."

"Jo and I embarrassed you unintentionally earlier, so we decided to seek approval for an upgrade to business class but were told if you were nicely dressed to push you through to first as cabin personnel there haven't much to do as virtually no-one is drinking on this early morning flight.

"Oh, here's Rose with your Verve Clicquot - or would you prefer something drier, a different House perhaps?"

"This is fine, thank you Sue. Bye."

Jack then addressed the woman pouring their drinks. "Rose, please put aside another bottle for us because despite a memorable tasting recently we haven't quite decided if this is our drink."

"Very well, sir."

"Ah, Maggie, with that champagne pouring down your throat perhaps you could suggest how you intend integrating kitchen and kitsch?"

"Well, I haven't been wasting time lulling on my fat..."

"Maggie, don't belittle yourself. From what I've seen it's delightfully rounded."

"Oh really, thank you but please keep your personal remarks to yourself until I'm suitably pissed enough for them to pass over my head. We have to get a preview issue printed, so by the time I arrive back home I'll virtually have planning completed. Your offer to look after things from production onwards still stands, I hope."

"Aye, lassie. As solid as a rock off yon Nevis."

"Shut up. Such an accent has never been heard in all of Scotland. I accept your assurance, however.

"I have been composing little homilies to help maintain focus - some will probably be included in our formal presentations - possibly as headings, I should think."

"What kind of homilies?"

Maggie recited them:

Gingham curtains in kitchens are homely

Fancy a china hen with china chicks hanging on your kitchen wall; go right ahead!

Steal ideas but remember, you want a new kitchen that is YOU

Set priorities - a replacement kitchen is more essential to family life than a new car or boat

Have your new kitchen designed to be messed up

Make your mistakes when cooking, not with kitchen design

Husbands and sons will cook in kitchens with logical layout

Cutting onions makes you weep, a poorly planned kitchen will make you cry.

Jack said two or three sounded promising and Maggie beamed at the approaching Rose. "Ah, Rose, arriving just in the nick of time. The bottoms of our glasses are in danger of drying out."

"I shall be right back with the bottle and fresh flutes."

Maggie eyed Jack.

"So, what do you really think about my homilies?"

"It demonstrates that you have got your mind into gear. Building graphical and word pictures in your mind will strengthen your focus and keep you alert about your mission."

"Oh gawd, do you have to be so stuffy? Couldn't you just say something like, ‘Cute little wordy thingies, babe. Now motor into the big stuff'. Encouragement and inspiration are what I need."

Jack looked surprised.

"You mean you want...Thank you want me to talk to you like that?"

"Good heavens no, I'm Scottish. You're drifting me away from our central discussion, Jack."

Passengers were informed they would be touching down in about fifteen minutes.

"Ooh, I'm so excited," gurgled Maggie, clutching Jack by the arm and leaning her chin on his shoulder. "I've never been to Melbourne before. We've scoffed two bottles and turned down a third, but never mind. Too much of a good thing spoils one; that's why I'm saving it."

"Saving what?"

"Don't be a moron, Jack," sniffed Maggie, wondering when they'd really go to bed for sex.

The taxi-driver helped Jack get Maggie to the elevator and a reception assistant helped Jack get Maggie to her bed.

He removed Maggie's dress and shoes without embarrassment - already aware from the beach close-ups that she had a great body. Jack covered her face with a damp hand-towel and went up to the roof to view the pool.

The area was deserted.

But then blur of exploding energy flashed past him. The youngster did two tuck somersaults into the water, creating a mighty wave that half-wrenched the No Diving sign from its holding bolts. The kid's sister, aged about twelve, strolled to the water, dipped her toe in, checked out her fingernails, pulled her hair back tighter in the rubber holding band at the back, pulled up the top of a bikini that seemed to be covering nothing but bone, then tested the water with a big toe again. Satisfied that everything was ready, she walked over to a sun longer and lay down. Exhausted probably.

A very suntanned woman with fair hair, firm flesh - very firm flesh - and a bikini two sizes too small for her sat down beside Jack on the bench seat, almost touching him.

There were oodles of unused bench seating and various types of chairs around the entire pool but she sat right next to him, so close she was trapping the heat from their bodies; it was a very hot day.

At times Jack has wacky thoughts, and had one now: Women only heat up when they want sex. "What an absurd thing to think."

"Pardon me?" she asked, in an Australian accent.

"I was just thinking to myself, perhaps women don't heat...oh."

"Don't heat what, food?"


"What a strange conversation to be having. Are you a New Zealander?"

Jack mumbled something.

"Sorry, please enunciate clearly. I wish to hear your answer; I'll sit closer."

"Mummy, mummy. Watch this dive - it's a ten for sure."

Thank you, little Johnny, thought Jack. But the woman was back at him again like a ferret.

"What was your reply...?"

"Mother, may I go to the gym?"

"No, not unless you wear shorts over that thong."

"But mother, I've really got nothing to hide."

"Then go shopping but only in the hotel. My card's in my handbag."

The woman, still sitting close to Jack, began reading a magazine. Cripes, it was getting hot. He couldn't move otherwise she might think he didn't like her. Gawd, he felt like a beer.

"There are two beers in our chilly bin. Would you like to fetch them?"

Jack looked around. Johnny was perfecting belly flops to maximize his contribution towards emptying the pool and young Miss appeared to be trying to sight non-existent pubic hairs. Weren't Aussie females something!

So, the woman must be talking to him.

But she wasn't patient enough to await his reply. "Shyte, you men are all the same," she snapped. "Everything on a plate or else you're not interested. I'll get the frigging beers."


She slammed the half frozen can down on his lower stomach, making him yelp, but he managed, "Thanks."

"You're welcome."

"What's the magazine?"

"Cuticle Care."

"What, someone produces a magazine about that?"

"Why not, it's more important to me than stock broking."

"Why stock broking?"

"Because my husband is a stock broker."

"Where, here?"

"No, funny man. In Sydney where he is now, instead of being with his family."

"So, you'd appreciate some adult company."

"Is that a proposition?"

"Of course not, I wouldn't dare."

"What's wrong with me? What part of me is not acceptable to you? Name it and I'll try to get it changed," she appeared to joke; at least Jack hoped she was joking.

"Steady on, I was only asking." Jack eyed her. She was broad faced and seeped with power and confidence. She was no bunny from suburbia looking after Mr Stockbroker. She looked lovely and would have been beautiful in her pre-forties. It was great she wanted him to talk intelligently.

"Could we talk magazines," he began, and she looked at him sharply. "This is market research for me, so I want to know why do you read magazines?"

"To become informed."

"Don't fib!"

She laughed and told Jack to give her a break. "I was only trying to give you the answer I thought you wanted."

"Well, I don't want answers like that; I want answers from the heart."

"Like from here?"

She seized Jack's hand and had it planted on her chest before he had time to resist. He snatched away his hand, accidentally clipping her on the mouth.

He was about to apologize when she snarled, "Trust me, with my luck I had to hit on the only homosexual in Melbourne."

"Weren't we talking about magazines?"

"Oh yes, ask me again."

"Why do you read magazines?"

"As a form of escapism. I love the elegance, the glamour, the over-all quality of paper, typefaces, line spacing, the balance between text and graphics and of thoughtful attention to white space, the infinitely variety when it comes to writing headings, the visualization of the completed page, the completed feature. I love dealing with the contributors, the advertisers, agency representatives, and the various supplies of services. And then, standing at the press and when that first copy comes into my hands I feel a release that is not sexual but rather seems to come from the soul."

Jack closed his mouth, and then opened it to say,

"That was...that was..."

"Awesome?" she asked, patting her hair for no apparent reason. Jack wondered what the color of her eyes was behind those dark glasses. Being a natural blonde, the eyes would have to be some shade of blue.

"Yes, rather awesome," he said. "I, I'll be positive, I bet you 100 bucks...that...that..."

"Okay, but I really don't know what I am betting on."

"Doesn't matter, you've got to take a punt sometime. I bet your father was a publisher, and you worked for him. Ink began to flow through your veins and then your father achieved great happiness, finally overcoming his disappointment of never having a son."

"Christ, who are you? What are you - an industrial spy for Fairfax? I ought to bop you one, you invasive, slimy homosexual."

"Steady on, Aussie sheilas are supposed to be tough, but that's really a little over the top. Besides, you're making me nervous; if I return to the Rottweiler with marks on me I will be carpeted and asked to explain."

"Rottweiler - my favorite dog. Do you own one?"

"Well, sort of. It resides within my business associate and friend - female friend."

"What are you on? Can I have one, perhaps a couple? I don't really meet many men like you who seem to be away so happily with the fairies."

"Sad to say, that's the normal me and I don't do pills - alcohol is my only drug. I also assure you I don't know a thing about you, don't even know your name. We only arrived two hours ago." Jack rubbed his chin. It pleased him to be talking to a native, even if she did come from Sydney and she was entertaining. They could establish rapport.

But before his mouth opened, she said, "Look, I can get a sitting service for the kids, then you and I would be free to do whatever we please. I take just ten days' holiday a year, plus public holidays, and this is six of those ten days. I'm 49 and feeling it. If you can let me into your life just a little bit, shag me blind if you wish, but I also just want to be spoken to like an intelligent person, made to laugh by someone kind and partly innocent like you seem to be and I take it your friend would be good company, too."

"Honestly, Mrs X, if I were here alone and saw you I wouldn't have wait for you to make an offer as you just have, I'd had been lapping at your heels like crazy."

Mrs X reached out and tousled Jack's hair.

"That makes me so sad, knowing that I am not going to get," she said. "But that's life. It's true, isn't it - you really haven't a clue about who I am?"

"Not as far as I know, and why should I? You said you come from Sydney. I live in Auckland."

"Well, it's absolutely unbelievable that you were right on the button about my background. You're a journalist, aren't you - a journo who is blessed by being a lateral thinker?"


"Treasure it Mr Aucklander."

"The name is Jack."

"Hullo, Jack, I'm Alanya."

"Not Alanya Canvas? Oh God, one of the world's magazine gurus."

"You know of me then?"


"But now that you know, don't you wish to fawn over me; I sense you have a need?"


"May I ask why not?"

"Because you are on holiday."

Alanya's laugh tinkled.

"You are serious, aren't you? You Kiwis are so pragmatic." Alanya sat for a moment. "Are you in a mood to negotiate?"

Jack shrugged.

"I take that is a yes? Then what say I let you talk to me about magazines and wherever those conversations take us intellectually and in return you and your friend form an inclusive grouping with my children to help to inject fun and entertainment into part of their holiday? Then you and your partner take me to restaurants and perhaps go clubbing?"

Jack gave her a charming smile that melted her heart. "It doesn't have to be a deal. We'll just cohabitate like an extended family group, taking some breaks. I'd really like to do that."

"You are not playing by the rules of engagement, Jack. You are supposed to try to take advantage of me, and me of you, so we both end up with an agreement that satisfies neither of us."

"I threw away that book years ago, Alanya. I don't live by the rules unless really necessary. Tell me, do you have a camera with you?


"Nor I, but with kids on holiday one needs a camera. Do you have plenty of money?"

"Why bother to ask?"

"I wish to buy a decent camera - I prefer a film camera. Six hundred would cover it. I'll teach your little fellow to use it and then he'll have a hobby for life if he takes to it."

Alanya peeled off banknotes from a roll than still looked substantial. "Here you are, Jack. My son's name is Simon. There's six hundred plus the one hundred I lost on the bet."

"That's really wasn't a bet about how you became associated with magazines."

"Yes it was, so keep it."

"Fine, Alayna. There is something I want you to do: will you let my friend Maggie talk quietly to your daughter?"

"Leta? Of course but may I ask why?"

"Leta is a bit troubled. My friend could help sort her out a little. Leta probably would not realize what's happening."

"She's a neglected child," Alanya said a little sadly.

"I know; it takes one to recognize one."

"Good god. Well, obviously you got out of your hole."

"Yeah, fortunately along came a woman like my friend. I recall her being with me over a few days, she talking to me for long periods. Then she went away and never again did I feel lonely and unwanted. I know it as ‘The miracle'."

"What a lovely story and a very powerful recommendation, Jack. Please encourage you friend to work her magic on Leta. I shall look forward to meeting her - this evening at the cocktail party perhaps?"

"Yes that would be lovely."

Jack found Maggie soundly asleep but knew she was on the mend as she had taken medicine. Obviously she'd taken a healthy slug of whisky from the bottle on the bedside cabinet and the two small containers of bottled water were empty.

Dressed in shorts, a loose shirt and floppy hat Jack boarded a tram for an outer suburb to get away from the tourist trap shops in the inner city. After demolishing a coffee and plate of sandwiches he was soon talking to a Chinese camera shop assistant. Initially Jack pretended to be nae to try to determine the honesty of the man. The assistant checked out fine.

They examined bodies and lenses to no avail. Jack wanted too many features for too little cash and eventually it was nuts trying to buy that level of camera for a novice, eventually he decided that the lad would be better off with a point-‘n'-press digital camera.

Almost an hour has passed before the patient sales assistant and Jack had two cameras on the counter.

"Which one, sir?"

He shrugged, knowing he was behaving like an unconfident woman in a dress shop. The $475 digital camera was good value for the money, but manual controls were limited and the lens was not impressively fast.

On the other hand, the more expensive camera had almost everything going for it including a ten times optical zoom. Jack wanted to buy it knowing that the lad should be trying to capture excellent photos of his mother, a fading beauty. It seemed a tad overpriced.

The assistant bargained but Jack could only get him down by $100.

Jack was about to buy the cheaper camera and not even bother to bargain when the phone went and the assistant spoke in Chinese - Yukka Province, Western Dialect, Jack fantasized.

"The boss, he sees you on TV monitor. He says you get 40% discount on price we already trading at and my sale shall bring good luck to my father's store."

Jack whistled in appreciation. Right, they still would have to negotiate over additional memory and better batteries.

But the assist was already on to that. "We'll, we take out memory and put in new one, doubled to 32Mb. Upgrade to rechargeable batteries with two spares, eh? Now you ready to photograph you wife in her lovely new bikini. Perhaps you come back and show father and me pictures, huh? No, I joke only.

"Well, let's see. Oh yes. Ah, a very excellent price for you $618. Thank you."

Jack walked out whistling. It was a great buy! His work digital camera Maggie now used for taking proof shots before the start of an intense photographic session had cost almost $2700 two years earlier. This new camera shared most of its features and doubtless would perform almost as well. He still felt uneasy about placing a $600 camera into the hands of a youngster, but then mum was loaded.

Back in the hotel room Jack had the camera unpacked and had finished testing it when he found Maggie was awake and watching him.

"Hi - feeling better?"

"I feel great, ready to rumble as soon as I've had a shower. So, toys for boys I see."

"Yes, for a kid named Simon actually. I met him, his mum and his sister. We shall be seeing a lot more of them over the next few days."

"I can guess what his mum looks like."

"Yes, you happen to be right, though a bit older than you might think. The daughter is a bit of a lost soul. I think daddy's hidden himself away looking for more banknotes while mummy is too busy to be an on-line mummy. Should be a quick fix for you if we're lucky. I volunteered your services."

"Oh thanks. You get to hump while I do the work, babysitting the offspring."

"It's not like that Maggie."

"No, I guess not. Sorry, I'm a shade touchy still. Be right after a shower."

Jack continued staring at her.

"What? Why do you have that stupid grin on your face? Oh, I know, you are about to blow me away, aren't you?

Jack nodded.

"OK, chocks away!"

"Maggie, the woman is Alanya Canvas?"

For one second, Maggie froze. Then her freckles parted to allow a huge grin to burst forth. "Ohmigod, ohmigod. The High Priestess of Magazine Media herself. You've found a gold mine, Jack. A deep pit of pure gold, Jack. I've read about her extensively. She's launched more magazines than you've had hot dinners. Half the magazines in the stables of the Big Boys of lifestyle print media in Australia are Alanya's babies. This is fucking unbelievable.

"I'll not only try to help her daughter, I'll pay her to allow me to work on her daughter."

"Fine, that's fine, Maggie. Very good. But please, don't get either over-awed or too intense with her, Maggie. I think she's also a wounded animal and she's on holiday. She's agreed to talk with us for hours about magazines - anything we wish to discuss. But she also wants us to join in with activities as a sort of extended family and some time with us dining and clubbing. Okay?"

"That sounds very okay. How old are the children?"

"Don't know - the guess the boy is 10 and the girl twelve."

"You have to guess children's ages but yet you know their mother's bra size?"

"Don't be too tough on me Maggie. Guys don't get too personal with parents asking questions about the children in case they get tagged as dirty old men."

"Has it become that bad? Oh dear. Alanya Canvas, Jack. I couldn't be happier than if the Queen herself arrived here."

Submitted: July 29, 2007

© Copyright 2022 Grigor McGregor. All rights reserved.


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