Milos whistles to himself as he cuts the last of the tiles for the conservatory floor. George Bloody Michael. He can’t help himself, though – Carolina’s singing away to it upstairs and the sounds carrying over the garden. He smiles to hear how happy she sounds, he can’t help basking in his own glory. Total fucking genius!
A week ago he felt like his balls were in a vice. This has been the job from hell. The client has been busting his nuts over every fucking detail. And now she’s pissed because the job’s gone over time and she’s got people coming. Like it’s his fault she never has the time to discuss things properly. Like it’s his fault she changed her mind about the tiles three times. At this rate he’s not going to make any profit anyway. But this is the sort of job he needs, so he has to suck it up. Yes love, no love, three bags bloody full love.
So: an ultimatum. Finish this weekend or she won’t pay. Bitch. Then Carolina started in. ‘You promised, Milos! You promised to take me away! You don’t treat me right Milos.’ Christ. If he told the boys they’d give him shit about how whipped he is. But any one of them would kill for a night with her, so what do they know?
The song changes upstairs. ‘I’m your ma-a-an,’, Carolina sings. You better believe it baby! The genius was the realisation he could kill two birds with one stone (two birds, har har har, good one): Bettina would be away for the weekend. Bring Carolina with him to the house: she plays lady of the manor, he works. Girlfriend happy. Client happy. End of.
He spreads adhesive on the back of the tile and presses it in place, adjusting the spacers slightly as he does so. Only about a square foot left to do. And it’s fucking schmick, even if he does say so himself.
And how fucking right was he? Carolina has been in pig heaven all weekend. And boy, has he benefited. He’s getting a semi just thinking about it. They must have fucked in every room in the house. She’s so turned on by all this posh shit. And how good will it feel to eyeball Bettina tomorrow, knowing you’ve fucked on her Italian marble benchtops.
So: Bettina gets the best fucking conservatory ever built. Carolina got her posh weekend away. Milos gets laid. Everybody’s happy. I am the man!
Carolina’s in the doorway, her dark hair tumbling on her shoulders, her body wrapped in a big robe. His cock reacts again – lingerie underneath, like last night? He signals her over. She teeters across the cloth he’s laid down to protect the work on towering heels.
She flashes the base of one shoe at him; its bright red.
‘Close your eyes,’ she says, her Spanish accent lending seductive susseration to the words. He lets the trowel in his hands drop and obeys, a tiny, self-satisfied smile playing across his lips.
It’s not what he’d hoped. She’s got on a fitted red dress that clings dangerously to her curves. She looks great. Hot in a classy way.
‘Mmm. You look like a model.’
‘It’s Vivienne Westwood. This be-atch has the best clothes. It is totally not fair.’
He picks up his tools. This again.
‘I know, baby. But one day I’ll buy you clothes like this I promise.’
‘Baby?’. She’s adopted the baby voice she uses when she wants something.
‘You’re nearly finished, aren’t you? Can you take me out? I want to show off.’
He looks her up and down and, for the hundredth time, wonders what the hell a woman like that see in him. Twenty-five!
‘Only if you give me a kiss’
She smiles that seductive smile that made his mates nickname her Viagra. She leans over, taking his head gently in her hands and kissing him long and deep, pulling gently on his bottom lip with her teeth. He’s so fucking lucky, he can barely believe it.
‘Give me another hour here and I’ll be done. Find us somewhere nice to go.’
She teeters off on the shoes. Yep, I am a fucking genius, he thinks. I am the man!
A couple of hours later and he’s thinking pretty much the same thought. The prices in the ridiculously trendy bar are extortionate – over £4 for a pint! – but totally worth it for the eyeballs Carolina is getting. He’s the envy of every trendy fuck in the place, struggling to keep a straight face as she rubs his crotch with the toe of her shoe under the table.
His phone rings. Carolina pouts. Bettina. He pushes her foot away to answer.
Bettina’s voice is velvety on the other end.
‘I wanted to let you know straight away how thrilled I am with the conservatory. I know we’ve had our moments, but I’m thrilled, it’s perfect.’
‘You’ve seen it?’ His heart is contracting in his chest, his mind racing.
‘I’m at the house now.’
‘No!’ he blurts.
‘No?’ the familiar icy tone returns to her voice.
‘I mean, I haven’t cleaned up properly yet, you shouldn’t see it like that I just had to pop out…’
She interrupts, ‘I know it’s naughty of me to sneak back and check up on you but don’t be too mad, I’m thrilled.’
‘Well, let me clean up so you can…(what? think fast!)…get the full effect’. He’s broken out in a sweat. Fuck! The bedroom is a tip! But, thank Christ, Bettina goes for it; she’s leaving now. The second she hangs up he waves for the waiter with the faggy hairdo and gets the bill. Carolina starts to bitch and moan but a sharp look shuts her up. That ridiculous fucking outfit.
They speed back to the townhouse. He’s as close as he ever comes to praying, wishing fervently that he’d never hatched this crazy plan and that they can clean up and get out of there with her none the wiser. They pull up in front of the house; good, no sign of Bettina’s car. He jumps out of the van issuing orders to Carolina as he goes.
‘Everything back where it came from. Everything. Clean the shoes.’
He turns and catches her pulling a mocking face.
‘Don’t you get it? This could ruin everything! Don’t you FUCKING get it?’
She tosses her head angrily but doesn’t say anything. About bloody time.
He’s barely got the door open when Bettina appears at the top of the landing, her hands full of clothes discarded by Carolina, her face full of rage.
‘What the fuck has been going on here?’
She clocks Carolina.
‘Who is…my Louboutins! What is that slut doing in my Louboutins?’
For a split second Carolina looked contrite, but the insult replaces it with an outrage borne of jealousy.
‘Bet you hate the fact I look better in them than you do.’
Milso reaches out and slaps her before he’s even thought about. She reels, gasping. He turns to speak to Bettina but suddenly she’s there. She snatches the bag out of Carolina’s hands and demands she hands over the shoes and dress. A torrent of angry words floods from her painted lips. Milos tries to interject but he’s impotent against her invective; time and again she’s ignores his efforts to apologise.
‘This is totally unacceptable. Do you hear me? And I will tell everyone. Everyone I know will hear about this and you will never, never work in this town again.’
The heart-stopping fear grips Milos once more. All his hard work! He’s begging her.
‘Bettina – missus – ma’am – I can explain.’
‘You have violated me! Do you realise that? Is this even legal. It can’t be. That’s it, I’m calling the police.’
Not the police! He can’t take it anymore. He grabs the raging woman by the face, covering her mouth with her hand to just. Shut. Her. Up.
‘I just want to explain’.
She struggles under his grip, her eyes widening as he grips tighter.
‘I just want to explain’.
‘Yeah, shut up, bitch and let him explain.’ He twists to face her.
‘What the fuck are you still doing in her clothes? You heard her – take them off.’ She glares at him and start undoing the dress. He turns back to Bettina. She’s struggling less, but he can feel the tension in her body.
‘I was in a jam. I know it was wrong but I’ll put it right again.’ Hope against hope. Can he talk his way out of this? Out of nowhere, the red dress. Then a spiky heeled shoe.
‘Have your fucking clothes back. See if I care.’ Carolina throws the last shoe. The clunky platform sole hits him in the cheekbone. He lets Bettina go and lunges for Carolina.
‘Fucking bitch. Are you trying to destroy me?’
Bettina starts screaming and she’s scrambling for her phone, and escape. Not the police! Anything but the police! Carolina is shouting too. Fucking bitches doing my head in.
‘Shut up and help me.’
He grabs Bettina again and pushes her up against the wall, hard. Thank Christ Carolina does what she’s told for once and takes the phone out of Bettina’s hand.
‘Don’t scream. Please. Don’t call the police. I’m not a bad guy, I just fucked up.’
She goes still. Fear shades her eyes. He likes it. Carolina is still too. Still stupid. No fear there. He’s panting, adrenalin pumping in his veins.
‘What you gonna do, baby?’ She’s standing there in her lingerie, one hip cocked like a bored fucking stripper or something. It’s all her fault.
‘What you gonna do?’
He releases Bettina to lash out at the younger woman.
‘If it wasn’t for your whinging we wouldn’t be in this mess. Take me away, Milos. Look after me, Milos. What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do?’
His blow knocks her to the floor. But she won’t stay down.
‘Bastard!’ Whack. ‘Bastard!’ Whack. Bitch! He grabs her hair, makes her scream.
‘You want some more? You want to fight me? I’m the man, bitch.’
She’s fighting but her tiny frame is no match for his work-hardened physique. She’s soon a sobbing mess, bruises already marking her olive skin. But Bettina’s gone. Shit. Can’t be upstairs. Kitchen.
She’s huddled against a cabinet, a phone in her hand, and everything he needs to know is in the defiance in her eyes.
‘They’re on their way. You won’t get away with this.’
The floor tilts beneath him. A crack opens in his brain, and a sense of everything he’s ever worked for, everything he’s achieved slipping away from him washes over his being. A part of his brain registers a broken tile by the door. She’ll want that fixing, he thinks. His fists uncurl. The fight falls away from him. That’s it. All over. End of.
In the corner, Bettina tenses. He’s about to speak when a jolt like an electric shock hits him, and he crumples to the floor.
Carolina shoves his inert body with her bare foot.
‘Who’s the man now, bastard?’.