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    Wombat Bill
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May contain graphic sexual content

Catering With Benefits (3) - An Appetite for More - 44. Without a Parachute

196601917_316469953397257_66314241954370

TWO MONTHS LATER

Jonathan and Lachlan had gone to the villa in France and had been there a month when Thomas called Jonathan, asking if he could join them. “Of course, we’re looking forward to it. Lachlan has compiled a long list of things to do and places to take you. He seems quite excited about your visit. Vineyards are a big feature on his list and you’re not going to believe the range of cheeses here. I made sure he put some fromageries on the list.”

“Thanks Jonathan, that all sounds very exciting.”

“Hold on, Lachlan wants to talk to you.”

“Hi Lachlan, how are you enjoying France?”

“It’s fabulous, and Jonathan is very generous, we have been to some fabulous sites and nothing is too much trouble for him. But I must tell you, I’ve started driving over here. It’s taken a bit of practice to familiarise myself with driving on the other side of the road. We just rented a local car for a few weeks and when I felt comfortable driving, we went to BMW in Germany and picked up a leased vehicle direct from the factory. They were very helpful and we even got a tour of the factory included. So when you arrive we’ll pick you up the airport in our very own car.”

“I look forward to that.”

“Can’t wait to see you. I’ll give the phone back to Jonathan now.” concluded Lachlan.

“So when should we expect you?” asked Jonathan.

“I’m thinking two weeks. The probate for Jared’s will came through and his parents have signed the paperwork for transfer of the property.”

“So you’ll be a homeowner very soon?”

“Yes and no. I am accepting their offer but I’m not going to keep the house. I’ll explain over a bottle of the best local wine when I arrive. Andy and Dean are going to buy the house, so I’ve arranged to have the transfer and resale all done together. Smidmore’s people have been amazing doing all that for me. He’s even found a way to avoid paying double stamp duty.”

“He really is a clever man and surrounded himself with the best people in the business. We have been lucky to have him retained all these years. My father made a wise choice.”

“He wouldn’t divulge anything about your affairs, naturally, so I was wondering how things are going there?”

“All the property settlements and transfer of part ownership of the company to Virginia is complete. He’s working on the public float, but that will take some time to jump over all the hurdles of the Securities Commission, but he’ll get it done. Nothing for me to do other than sign the many documents he sends me. I’ve been to the Australian Consul General so many times we’re on a first name basis.”

“That sounds great and it also sounds like you and Lachlan are loving it there.”

“Everything’s just perfect. Lachlan is supervising the re-decorating of the villa, we have a new local cook and....wait a minute Thomas....what’s that?”

When Jonathan returned to the conversation he said “Bernard says to tell you, he’s met a lovely French widow and they are living la dolce vita, whatever that means.”

“I think it means he’s happy.”

“Oh good, it’s hard to tell with him sometimes.”

“I look forward to meeting the new Bernard.”

“He’s not much different to the old one. Except he’s always dropping the odd French sentence, which frankly I don’t understand, so I just nod, smile and he thinks I’ve understood. So far so good, but for all I know he could be calling me Hitler’s love child.”

“As long as you’re all happy. I’ll send you my travel plans as soon as they’re finalised.”

“What now? ...... Lachlan says to tell you our nearest airport is Marseille Provence airport. We’ll pick you up from there.”

***

The last Wednesday before he left for France, Thomas was invited to Poppy’s for dinner with the usual Wednesday night crowd. Thomas arrived first and was greeted by Craig, who said “I’m glad you’re here early, Justin and I want to talk to you privately.”

“Oh, what have I done now?”

“Nothing like that.”

Craig then put on his serious face and said “I’ll let Justin start the conversation as it was his idea.”

Thomas looked puzzled, but said nothing and waited for Justin to speak.

“Guys, I made an almighty stuff up and caused hurt to both of you the way I allowed my relationship with Jared to develop and that ultimately ended in Jared’s death. I have already apologised to Craig and he has accepted my apology and we are both prepared to put it behind us. What I now want, is to apologise to you Thomas and ask if you will forgive me, for not only cheating with your partner, but being part of a series of events that put him in the situation that led to his death and your loss.”

Thomas sat silently, then started to sniff, a physical sign that he was emotionally affected by Justin’s apology.

“Have I upset you Thomas, I don’t want that, mate. I’m sorry.”

A little more silence and quiet reflection by Thomas, then he finally said “Justin....I hold no ill will against you about anything that happened between you and your brother. I have learned a lot about Jared since his death; a lot more than I knew before. He was not the man we all thought we knew. He was troubled, but kept it to himself, although he had reached out for professional help just before he died. However he didn’t tell me and I didn’t pick it up, so I feel a bit guilty about that also.”

Thomas explained what he had learned from the psychiatrist and then said “So you see we were all fooled by his behaviour. He could be manipulative, without anyone even noticing it. I think that’s what happened between you two. Justin there is no need and certainly no future in you feeling guilty. I won’t say I forgive you, as I don’t believe I have anything to forgive. I will say that I value your friendship and want us to continue to be friends.”

“Thank you” Justin mouthed silently as he felt his voice would fail him if he tried to verbalise his thoughts. Craig took control by adding “I also thank you Thomas, I would hate to lose you as a friend.”

“I’m glad you mentioned this Justin as I would not wish to go away wondering if there was unfinished business between us.”

Craig then changed the direction of the conversation by saying “We want to ask you about your plans for when you return from France, specifically your work.”

“I officially resigned from Prices last week, so when I return I’ll start looking for a job. There’s really no rush, I’ve got a healthy bank account since the sale of the Leichhardt house to Andy and Dean.”

“That seems to have worked out well for everyone. I know they’re happy with the deal.”

“They should be, I have them a really good price, but I’m happy also. Anyway, what’s your interest in my career?”

“We have an offer for you. Don’t have to give us an answer now. Think about it while you’re away and let us know when you make a decision.”

“Go on.”

“As you know we’ve started our franchising operation of CWB and it’s going well. We’ve signed up five clients and there’s a lot more interested.”

“So Juanito’s doing a good job as Franchise manager?”

“He is but it’s not really his thing and we’ve overloaded him. He doesn’t really have the time to do that, run our accounting and study at the same time. We really need someone with good customer relations and organisational skills. As the job has developed into part sales, part decision making guidance and ongoing customer support, we need an all rounder to manage the franchising as it grows.”

“And you want me?”

“We believe you would be a good fit. You know our business from the customer’s point of view and you have good experience at organising functions and office management. Also you get on well with people at all levels. What do you think?”

“I’m certainly interested, if you think I have what you need.”

“Good, that’s all we need to know for now. You go away and enjoy your holiday and let us know when you decide, one way or the other.”

“Thanks guys, you have made me feel more relaxed about going away now. Jonathan suggested I take this trip to relax and think about my future. Now you’ve given me plenty to think about.”

“While you’re away just email us any questions you have about the job and we’ll work through the process from there.”

“Thanks and I do appreciate the offer, I think it will be exciting to work with you guys.”

“Same here.” added Justin.

“It looks like the others are gathering in the bar, so maybe we should join them.” suggested Craig.

“Before we do that.” said Thomas “There’s one more thing I want to tell you. Jared’s mother told me that in the last year of Jared’s military time he changed and as she put it, seemed to lose his way. She said he changed for the good when he met me and that was very flattering, but it started me thinking about why he lost his way. Then when his doctor told me he had PTSD I put the two things together and did some research about what sort of trauma our men faced in those warzones. Of course they were asked to do things, most of us would not even dream of doing and they saw death and lifelong injuries happen to innocent people on both sides. But what I didn’t know until recently was there are accusations in the media about atrocities and possible war crimes committed by our troops. I don’t know if they are true or just media sensationalisation, but I am left wondering if Jared could have observed these things or even been involved. It’s something I don’t to speculate about.”

“It’s certainly not healthy to speculate, now that he can’t explain himself. I have heard the same and I believe there will be an official government inquiry held to examine the accusations.” suggested Craig.

“Yes, but just the fear of having your actions officially questioned or to be accused of such horrible acts would be enough to cause worry, even if you weren’t involved.” added Justin. “So I, for one, don’t want to think badly about Jared because of that. The trauma of war can screw up the rest of a man’s life.”

“You know, I’ve learned so much about human nature since Jared’s death. Not just about Jared and his past, but I’ve also learned that I am surrounded by loving and supportive friends. That means so much to me. So thanks guys, for understanding all that. Now shall we put on our happy faces and join our friends at the bar?”

<>

Everybody had gathered except Tristan, who was still rehearsing his dancers at Divas. As Craig, Justin and Thomas joined the group, Snowy said, “Everyone, I have an announcement to make and I’ve waited for Justin and Craig to join us because it involves them.”

“Well they’re her now, so don’t keep us in suspense any longer.” said Raj.

“As you all know I have been studying cooking all this year and doing a few casual shifts at Poppy’s. In the new year I will be starting an official apprenticeship here, thanks to Justin and Craig.”

“Well done, all of you.” said Raj.

“And until then he will be working full-time with Charlie when the college semester finishes next week.” added Craig

“To Snowy’s success.” toasted Edward.

“What are we celebrating?” asked Tristan as he arrived.

“Snowy’s apprenticeship.” replied Justin.

“Oh, I’m not surprised, he hasn’t stopped talking about it since he got the offer.”

“Now that we’re all here, shall we move to the dining room?” asked Craig.

<>

During dinner, Edward issued an invitation for all to come to his annual pre-Christmas pool party. After the success of the previous year’s party, all the old gang accepted and encouraged the newer members to accept also.

Brett said, in his best queenly voice “On behalf of my husband and myself, we accept your kind invitation.” Then reverting to his normal queeny voice, said “When you say pool party, I hope you mean one with water, not just a table with balls all over it. Though come to think of it, that wouldn’t be so bad either.”

“Yes Brett.” replied Romel “It’s a genuine swimming pool with water and lots of floating things.”

“Oh yuk” he replied and turned up his nose “I’ve heard of that. But it’s not my scene, sorry we may not be able to attend after all.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake Brett.” said Jeremy “I assume Romel means inflatable toys.”

“Of course I did.” replied Romel “Why what were you think....Oh Brett how could you?”

“Just checking, can’t be too sure how kinky some people are. So now that’s settled, I’m really looking forward to it. Never been to a pool party before, can’t wait to have sex in the pool.”

“Definitely not! snapped Edward “There will be no sex in our pool, only on the lawn will be permitted.”

“Fair enough, lawn ok with you Jez?”

***

Thomas flew off to Europe a few days before the Christmas party. There was no direct Qantas flight to Paris, so when he was booking the airline tried to put him on a code share flight with Emirates via Dubai. However, Thomas was having none of that. He did not want to fly with a middle-Eastern airline or have a stopover there either. If he couldn’t fly all the way on Qantas metal he would look for another option. Eventually he settled on Qantas to Singapore and Singapore Airlines to Paris.

As he boarded his flight in Sydney, he was ushered to his seat by Emily, one of the business class cabin crew. “Welcome on board Mr Steadman. I will be your attendant for this flight, please call me Emily. Can I get you Champagne, orange juice or something else?”

<>

After take-off, the attendants were in the galley preparing drinks and snacks when Emily was approached by her colleague Daniel. “Em, how about swapping aisles with me, there’s someone I know in 3B.

“Might I remind you, that you are in a permanent relationship now?”

“What are you suggesting?”

“You used to ask me to swap when there was a woman that took your fancy. In fact isn’t that how you met Rani?”

“Yes, of course, but this is different. He’s a guy I know. I met him at a beauty salon party Rani took me to.”

“Ok, but behave.”

“Are you suggesting I might have other tendencies?”

“One never knows with you Dan.”

<>

“Good afternoon Mr Steadman.” Daniel said as he lowered the tray table and set down a glass of champagne and a plate of canapés.

“Thank you ah....”

“Daniel Mr Steadman, I will be taking care of you on this flight.”

“Haven’t we met before?” asked Thomas. “Did you say your name is Daniel?”

“Yes and yes. We met at the opening of a salon of some ex-colleagues of my partner Rani.”

“Oh yes, I remember now. It was quite a night, as I recall.”

“Yes, those two waxing boys are characters, especially Brett.”

“I was thinking more about the police and the drug b......”

Daniel interrupted Thomas by asking “Have you tried the canapés?” put a finger on Thomas’ lips and winked.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

“Sorry Sir, lost my balance for a moment.”

“Oh, I get it. It was you, wasn’t it?”

“I don’t know what you are saying Sir.”

“Yes, you do, sorry I’ll say no more about it.”

<>

After the meal service, Daniel asked Thomas “If you’d like to come with me and I will show you around the aircraft.” He led him a few steps down the aisle, through the galley and into the staff rest area. The other crew members noticed but averted their eyes and just smiled at each other as Daniel dropped a blanket outside the staff cabin.

When Emma returned to the galley, Amanda said “The mile high club is busy Emma, and you’ll never guess who.”

Emma looked around and noticed the only one missing was Daniel. “That cheating bastard, he’s never going to hear the end of this from me.”

“Why are you so upset?”

“He’s in a permanent relationship, with a woman he met in that club, I might add.”

“Oo naughty boy. Is he always like that? This is the first time I’ve crewed with him.”

“Used to be, but not since he met Rani.”

“Does he swing both ways?” asked Amanda

“Why?”

“He’s gone in there with a man, pretty good looking I might add. I’m a bit jealous really.”

<>

“What are we doing here?” asked Thomas.

“I thought you might like to avail of our mile high club.”

“What?”

“Just joking. I wanted to get you alone, in private, to explain about the party thing.”

“You mean the drugs?”

“Shush, keep it down. If management finds out about my conviction, I’m out of here, without a parachute. You understand me?”

“Oh, of course. I wasn’t going to say anymore.”

“Thanks mate.”

“Now tell me more about this mile high club.”

Next Chapter - A Road Trip

Copyright © 2021 Wombat Bill; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

When do we get to try Snowy’s food? Glad to see Thomas is getting a much needed vacation and the job opportunity sounds like a good one. Interesting to see Thomas run into Daniel and his interest in that um exclusive club shows he’s really in a vacation mindset now. Not sure if anything will remotely occur between them but if Daniel ain’t careful Rani may want to put his bird back in its cage. 😉 

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Glad to see Thomas in the mindset for his vacation, not sure if he'll join the Mile high Club with Daniel. It's great to see Thomas sorting his life after Jared's death. Selling the house, changing job, all positives in a brand new start.

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Good chapter, @Wombat Bill.  What IS Daniel up to?  

It should be interesting to see how Thomas gets along in France.  So Bernard has a woman friend!

Life got in the way of commenting earlier.  Also os getting in the way of me doing more comments.  Looking forward to the next chapter.

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@NimirRaj, @chris191070 & @ReaderPaul, You guys are always looking for intrigue and scandal, often where none exists. I think Daniel just wanted to be sure Thomas kept quiet about the drug conviction. Of course Thomas was curious about the "club", hopefully only innocent curiosity. We don't want to see Daniel go back into the cage, do we?

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I am curious as to why Thomas did not want to fly with a middle-Eastern airline and have a stopover there. If this decision is principle-based i.e. he did not want to contribute to the economy of a nation where LGBTQI persons are subject to violence or death, often sanctioned by the state itself, then I hold him in even higher esteem than what I did already.

If word gets back to Rani that "her Daniel" may not be completely heterosexual (even if he is), imagine the snit she will have over that. "Little" Daniel may be best kept caged for his own protection.

Lachlan seems delightful, perfectly suited to broaden Jonathan's rather narrow perception of gay relationships. 

After a number of "dark" chapters @Wombat Bill, this chapter was positively rosy. Craig and Justin offering employment to both Snowy and Thomas is particularly pleasing. It seems our group of friends are forging stronger ties all the time, they have become like a self-sufficient community, and I for one, applaud them for this.

 

 

 

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