Tangled Web of Love

by Joanne Rawson

Faith has formed a unique relationship with her boyfriend Paul.

Liking their own independence, doing what they wanted without consulting the other, and they had never said those three significant words, I love you, that none of their friends or family can quite understand.

However, there is one complication in their relationship – Paul’s snobbish father, who thought Faith an unsuitable lady friend for his son. In fear that his son would marry Faith and interbreed, he demanded Paul to stop seeing her.

When Paul suddenly does a disappearing act, Faith decides whatever it was between her and Paul was over. He could come back on bended knee, begging and kicking but there was not a chance in hell that this time they would get back together.

However, when Paul returns unannounced he finds Faith in the arms of another man.

What happens next is a tangled web of double dating, secrecy, sexual favours and betrayal.


Chapter One

August 2013


On the night of Jackie White’s party, Faith, finally happy that her staff could cope without her to clean up, knew her job there was done.

Normally she would have waited around using this time to chat with guests marketing her business until the staff had finished. However, tonight was no normal night. Not that she had a romantic rendezvous or a wild party to attend, but the thought of going home, slipping into her jimjams, and watching reruns on sky, sounded more appealing than sticking around coming face-to-face with Jackie.

Instinctively, at the thought of her adolescent tyrant, Faith’s hand went to her left eyebrow. She was re-experiencing Jackie cornering her in the school cloakroom and shaving off one eyebrow. Then the weeks of humiliation she suffered waiting for it to grow back. If that was not bad enough, there was the time Jackie spiked her Vimto with vodka at the Friday night school youth club disco. When Faith was completely off her face, Jackie put her into a taxi giving the headmaster’s home address, saying her father would pay when he took her home. Faith narrowly escaped being suspended from school. But thanks to Norman Collier, the head boy who heard of Faith’s predicament and had a mega crush on her, confessed he had seen Jackie spike Faith’s drink, but was too frightened of Jackie to tell at the time.

Hence, that was why Faith had spent all night hidden away in the kitchen avoiding Jackie.

Nevertheless, there was still the matter of the bill to be paid.

Standing in the function room of the old town hall, Robbie Williams, Let Me Entertain You, blasted out of the speakers. Faith saw Jackie standing alone at the buffet table. As Faith walked toward her, she could feel little beads of sweat form on her top lip. Her stomach churned. She felt sick. She was fifteen again coming out of the shower after games. Jackie standing in the doorway swinging Faith’s PE bag stuffed with all of her clothes. Laughing she threw Faith her gabardine school coat before running out of the door. It wasn’t just the embarrassment of having to get on the school bus naked under her coat, that haunted her for weeks, oh no. But more for the fact Jackie was twirling around her bra with the extra padding of cotton eye pads Faith had meticulously sewn into cups to make her 28AA into a 28B. Announcing at the top of her voice, that fibber, Faith was really a flatty.

Faith knew this temporary moment of anxiety was ludicrous. Twenty years had passed. They were grown women now. Surely, they had moved on, hadn’t they?

Stay cool and calm. Say something diplomatic. Nothing she can misinterpret. Like...like... Come on think. Feeling her butt cheeks clench. Of course. You look lovely tonight

Back in the day Jackie had been the authority of bullies. Yet there was no denying she was one of the prettiest girls in school. And she knew it. While Faith and her friends dressed conservative in their Empire waist dresses and chunky boots, dreaming for the day they were seventeen and could go to the Town Hall disco, Jackie could easily pass for eighteen. With her thick mane of corkscrew, dyed Harmony Light Ash blonde hair. Tight low-cut fitted tops enhancing her 38c boobs and skirts so short they only just hid her modesty, she would wave her fake ID and enter into some of the hottest clubs in town. Then she saw Jackie for the first time in full view. Perhaps not.

For some ridiculous reason, Faith was taken aback by Jackie’s choice of outfit for her engagement party. It seemed more appropriate for someone playing the role of a hooker in Prime Suspect, but then what had she expected?

The red mini-dress was at least two sizes too small for her fuller figure, which struck the perfect balance of tacky and trashy. Her back-combed, bleached, blonde hair exposed two inches of regrowth. The only thing higher than Jackie’s black knee high, PVC, stiletto boots were her silicone boobs, which allegedly had been paid for, from her three fatherless children’s child support.

So, back to something diplomatic.

“Jackie, lovely party.” Faith gestured to the dance floor, smiling when she saw thirty-something year old men sweating and prancing around on the dance floor like idiots trying to recapture their youth to a melody of 90s hits.

“You think so?” Faith gave a sigh of relief as Jackie turned to her with a radiant smile.

“Of course, everyone seems to be in the spirit of things.”

There was a moment of silence, as Jackie appeared to be studying her. “Well, not for the bleeding food, that’s for sure.” From the way she wrinkled up her nose and tipped up her bottle of beer to take a slug, she apparently found Faith’s remarks less than candid.

“The food?” Faith looked questioningly at the remains of a dishevelled buffet table. “It was ready by eight sharp, as your Dad asked, by eight fifteen my staff replenished empty platters. I admit there was a slight delay as food was being consumed far quicker than we could replace it, but that was rectified by eight-thirty and then again at nine. I’m not sure what your problem is?”

“Of course you don’t. Because you are so up your own backside of how good you are. I couldn’t eat a frigging thing on that table tonight.”

“I assure you, all the food from menu A was there just as your dad ordered.” She tried not to let the threat of impending hysteria that herself and staff had failed to deliver their reputable standard of service and food overwhelm her.

At that moment, Jackie stepped forward grabbed her, digging her long talons of pillar box red painfully into her arm. “Let me make it simple for you, Miss High and Mighty. I ain’t paying. Do I make myself clear? Nobody here liked your crap food.”

Criticism about her food was a powerful motivator. Faith stepped forward leaning so close to Jackie’s, that to any onlooker it could have been interpreted as two old-school friends sharing a friendly moment.

“You know what, Jackie, you’re right, my food is far too good to be wasted on people like you.” In Faith’s moment of self-confidence, she could not help notice the rancid stench of alcohol and cigarettes on Jackie’s breath and her bloodshot, glazed eyes, evidence that Jackie had been drinking way before the party had begun. It was one thing to confront Jackie sober but drunk… She tried desperately to think how she was now going to get herself out of this predicament, when inspiration struck.

“The stupid thing is I was warned about you. I should have listened to Mr. Patel from the Taj Palace, Mrs. Wong at the Peking Duck, not to mention Mr. Chips and all the other restaurants and takeaways in Tippington, when they told me I was crazy to consider taking this job, that you would pull a stunt like this. Funny thing is I defended you at the local council’s retailer’s association meeting, to have you barred from every eating place in Tippington. However, I may now have to retract my argument.” The words were spoken in a pleasant manner, but the soft menace behind them was unmistakable. “Now can you let go of my arm.”

As Jackie released the grip, Faith was concerned by the unfazed look on Jackie’s face. “So what are you going to do about it?” she said with a defiance of cockiness, knowing Faith would never dare act on her findings.

“We are not teenagers, Jackie. The ‘what am I going to do about it’ doesn’t frighten me anymore. I’m not that girl who will do your math and English homework. Or detract old Mr. Harris at the chemist while you steal cosmetics.” All traces of civility had disappeared from Faith’s voice. “You will pay for the buffet, and the extra five pounds for the platter of sandwiches you seized off one of my waiters, who later spotted you out back in the yard, hungrily consuming the lot for yourself. Oh, and to make it clear, I will retract my plea.”

For a second Jackie seemed stunned by Faith’s aggressiveness, then growled in rage, striking out a hand to slap Faith’s face. Faith caught her wrist in midair.

“Jackie, what the bloody hell are you doing to the caterer?” bellowed the stern voice of Vincent White. Jackie’s father.

Vincent was a respected man in Tippington. He’d done service in both Ireland and the Falklands. He coached Tippington Football club and the youth team, as well as being on numerous charity committees. However, when it came to his daughter, this kind, meek man was the only person who could handle Jackie. Having dealt with a lifetime of his daughter’s misdemeanours, he treated her like he would with the squaddies when he was a drill sergeant, by putting the fear of God in her. And it worked.

“Shall I tell your dad, or will you?” Questionably raising her eyebrows, she gave Jackie a poised smile. Faith could see the fear of God in her eyes. “It’s fine, Mr. White, just a little misunderstanding about the quality of food and also a small matter of the bill.” The adrenalin pumping around Faith’s body was creating a persona that quite frankly scared the bejesus out of her. Yet at the same time a great sense of accomplishment that, for the first time ever, she was able to have the last word. “But we have reached a compromise, haven’t we, Jackie?” Staring grimly at her, Jackie shrugged her shoulders.

Vincent flitted his gaze from Faith to his daughter. Faith knowing full well he didn’t believe a word, he turned back to Faith. “The food tonight, Miss Munroe, was sublime. I apologise if my daughter thinks otherwise. Please send me the bill and as always, I will look forward to talking to you about catering for the boxing club’s annual dinner next month. As for you, Jackie,” he said turning abruptly to his daughter, “I suggest you get some coffee. Nobody likes to see a drunken hostess least of all her fiancé. Jimmy is a good man and God forgive me for saying this, deserves a better woman than you, Jackie. Don’t screw this up like you have the rest of your life. Good night, Miss Munroe.” For a moment, you could have cut the air with a knife. “Come on, Jackie, let’s get you that coffee.” Vincent began to walk away.

“I’ll get you for this, Munroe,” she hissed quietly. “One way or another I will destroy you and your perfect little life.”

Jackie,” her father barked.

Faith could see Vincent walking back, put a huge smile on her face, and said at the top of her voice, “Yes, I would love that, Jackie, give me a call.”

Before Jackie could respond, Vincent grabbed his daughter by the arm and led her reluctantly away.

Turning back around resting her hands on the buffet table, she took a deep inhale and then laughed to herself. She was overcome with a great feeling of liberation that she had finally stood her ground and battled her demons.

Looking up she saw a small group of Jackie’s friends as unfavourable as Jackie scowling at her. The last thing Faith wanted was another confrontation. Picking up a plate she averted her attention to the buffet.

Reaching for the last stuffed vine leaf, a large male hand did as well. At the same time, they both pulled away, turned to each other, and laughed.

Gallantly, he said with a sheepish grin, “You should have it. I have had six or seven already. They are delicious.”

“I know, I made them,” she said in a down-to-earth, sultry, yet not self-possessed manner. “I insist that you have it.” Expertly picking up the stuffed vine leaf between a fork and spoon, she placed it on his plate and gave him an engaging smile.

“I’m Paul Kemp.”

Faith wondered what in the hell Paul Kemp was doing at Jackie White’s engagement party. They hardly moved in the same circles. Everyone in Tippington knew Paul’s father, Kieran Kemp, owner of Tippington stud farm and riding stables. He drove into town in his big silver Rolls Royce, swanning around in his brown corduroy trousers, check shirt, cravat, and tweed jacket, as if he was lord of the manner. Unlike his wife, who was sweet, plump, and caring, a testimony to her name, Bonny. Paul had never mixed with the Tippington folk, having gone off to boarding school. Although he now worked at the riding stables, he only mingled in horsey, polo, yachting cliques, and rarely came to Tippington.

Her attention returned to the man before her.

“Pleased to meet you,” she said holding out her hand. “Faith Munroe, the caterer!” Taking his hand, not knowing if the feeling of tingling warmth she was feeling was from his admiration of her vine leaves or never realising he was so good looking. Not dampen-your-panties-good-looking but definitely handsome. He was the same height as her, slender but trim. Blonde curly hair, with baby blue eyes and eyelashes a girl would die for. He wore a light grey suit that fitted his nicely shaped shoulders like a glove.

“Well, Faith Munroe, the caterer, can I buy you a drink?” He rested a hand on her elbow as he gestured back toward the bar.

She couldn’t imagine what they would talk about. Riding, sailing, polo? Subjects that the people in his circles talked about for sure did not interest her. “Actually, I was just thinking about going home.”

“I know what you mean. I don’t think I can stand another hour with this crowd. My father insisted I attend tonight, seeing as how Jimmy is our head stable man,” he said with a definite arrogance that often came with wealth. As if he realised what he had said, he quickly declared, “Between you and me, Jimmy and his mates torment me so much at work, just because I’m the boss’s son.”

“I can relate to that. I had five years of Jackie’s torments at high school.”

“Then they are a perfect match and should be very happy together.” Again, they both laughed. “Oh, come on,” he urged, “just one drink. To save me from the humiliation of already being here half the night standing on my own like a prick, being the butt of that crowd over there thinking of jokes to tease me with in the morning.” He nodded his head over to Jimmy and his mates, watching them from the bar.

Faith, who understood all too well the theory of not letting your enemies think they had the better of you, nodded. “Just one drink.”

Three drinks later and not a word about riding, polo, or sailing, Faith found herself enjoying his company. He spoke with tenderness about his mother and sister, made her laugh at the pranks he had taught his nephews; all the things that women like to hear men talk about. His eyes did the real intimate talking, though. He wanted her.

Faith’s mind, on the other hand, knew better. Even though her body wanted to respond, she knew if she didn’t leave now, she might do something she might regret in the morning. Wouldn’t Jackie have a field day gossiping about that?

Faith looked at her watch. “Gosh, is that the time? I really must be going. I think you’re safe now from any humiliation in the morning.” Looking over, she noticed Jackie watching her with a look of contempt. That’s not to say I won’t from Jackie. “It has been a pleasure talking to you, Paul. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a mound of paperwork I need to do for my accountant in the morning.”

Abruptly standing from her chair, she turned and left, leaving Paul watching her head toward the kitchen.

"For Better or For Worse" by Joanne Rawson


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Contemporary Romance

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