It was a typical Monday morning in February as Brian left his apartment for the five minute walk to the office in Canary Wharf. He had enjoyed a nice weekend; watched Arsenal beat Plymouth in the FA Cup fifth round 4-0 with Bradley scoring a couple and winning yet another Man of the Match award, followed by dinner with Lucy at his place with a couple of bottles of decent wine. They spent all Sunday morning in bed, holding hands, cuddling and making love until hunger overtook Brian’s passions and he was forced to make breakfast for them.
He was pleased when Lucy told him she had packed up her job at Toppers and was looking for something that didn’t involve her taking her clothes off. He hated the thought of strange men ogling her body and wishing they could screw her. Lucy didn’t enjoy that part of it either. She was a trained dancer but struggled to get any meaningful work so she ended up taking what she could to support her lazy ex.
She had also given notice on her Pitfield Street flat as she was spending more and more time with Brian and was growing to like him more and more. She kept the place clean and tidy while Brian went to work and had a meal ready for him when he got home, just like a fifties housewife, she thought.
Occasionally, she would head for Shoreditch and meet some of her friends who were still dancing at Toppers, just to catch up on the gossip over a glass or three of wine. She proudly told them that she had hooked up with a high flyer in the City and living the life of Reilly in his Docklands apartment. They were mostly jealous of her good fortune, wishing that a Prince Charming would take them away from their boring lives.
One of her friends asked Lucy what her boyfriend’s name was. Was he local? When she replied his name was Brian Gardner and he came from Essex originally, moved to Scotland for work and had moved back here last year, Debbie piped up.
‘Wait a minute. He doesn’t have a son who plays for Arsenal, does he? That sounds like Bradley Gardner’s Dad.’
‘He never mentioned him. He does take me to the Arsenal sometimes, but I would never have guessed he was Bradley’s Dad.’ Lucy replied.
‘Not surprising with all the bad press that’s been going around about his family. You want to Google him and see if it is him. You’ve hit the jackpot if it is!’ Debbie laughed.
Lucy’s mind raced. She had been going out with him for seven months and he had never mentioned it. She knew he had two sons and one was a Maths teacher in Edinburgh, but she didn’t know what his younger son did and never wanted to probe in case he didn’t want to talk about him for some reason.
There had been a number of occasions when she had caught him reading Arsenal’s match reports in the papers and smiling, or watching their games on TV or at the Emirates, and cheering Bradley on more than the others which seemed strange. It all made sense now, she thought.
The girls moved on to other subjects like catching one of the bosses with his trousers around his ankles in one of the private dancing rooms with a new girl. They laughed loudly and recalled the day when they started and that was part of the initiation test. Lucy included.
After three hours of solid drinking and laughing, the girls called it a day and headed off either to Toppers for the evening shift, or home as in Lucy’s case. She couldn’t wait for Brian to get home to quiz him. Why hadn’t he told her? Was he ashamed of Lucy being a stripper and didn’t want his son to find out?
She had arranged to meet him by Liverpool Street station after work as they were going for a curry at the Dil Chad off Middlesex Street. She liked a curry and this place was one of Brian’s all-time favourites. Walking down Bishopsgate during the evening rush hour wasn’t easy; all the pedestrians seemed to be going the other way, heading away from London. She ducked down through Spitalfields Market then down some back alleys to Widegate Street for the restaurant.
As she was early, she picked up a copy of the Evening Standard and wandered into the Shooting Star pub opposite the Dil Chad and ordered a glass of wine. Just as she sat down at a quiet table with her drink and paper, two City types came over to her.
‘Excuse me, Love. We recognise you from somewhere and we were racking our brains trying to work out where. Do you work around here?’
‘No, I’m between jobs right now. But I can guess where you’ve seen me. Toppers?’ Lucy replied.
‘That’s it, of course!’ Exclaimed the taller one of the two. ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but we’re not usually looking at your face.’ He laughed as his friend collapsed in tears, thinking it was the funniest thing he had heard his boss come out with in ages.
‘I don’t work there any more, sorry. I’m just waiting for my boyfriend to arrive then we are going for dinner. Enjoy your evening.’ Lucy tried to end the conversation.
‘Now, don’t be unsociable, Love. Let me get you a drink while you are waiting. What’ll it be?’
‘Nothing, thanks. Really, I just want to wait for my boyfriend and read the paper, so if you could carry on enjoying your drink up the bar, that would be good.’ Lucy was getting worried. She had experienced this before. The punters seemed to think that because she was a stripper she was easy game. She was now getting angry.
‘Well, I’ll tell you what. You give us a blow job each and we’ll move on. How much?’
Now Lucy was really angry.
‘If you need a blow job so much, why don’t you ask your good looking boyfriend to satisfy you? Now, I’ll tell you what. Just fuck off and leave me alone before I cause Hell.’
Red-faced and angry, the pair of them sloped back off to the bar and left her alone. They would glance over at her occasionally and start laughing as she tried to concentrate on an article about Bradley Gardner in the Standard.
Her phone beeped and she grew angrier when she read the message from Brian. He had been held up and wouldn’t be there for another ten minutes. She had finished her glass of wine and needed another, but she didn’t want to go up to the bar to order it so she caught the eye of the barmaid and motioned to her to bring her another drink.
When the barmaid returned with another glass of wine, she placed it down on the table and said to Lucy that the two gentlemen at the bar had paid for it. She thought about sending it back but she didn’t want any more problems, so she picked up the glass and raised it to them in thanks.
The two City Boys looked at each other perplexed. Now the tables were turned and they didn’t know what to do. Lucy picked up her paper and started walking towards them at the bar, watching their faces turn to panic.
‘Well, you got your way. Thanks for the drink, but you’re still not getting a blow job’ She said loud enough for the rest of the pub to hear. Heads swung around and looked at them as the City Boys blushed and laughed nervously.
With that, she returned to her table and carried on reading the article. When she next looked up, they had gone. Totally humiliated and with the admiration of the remaining drinkers and the barmaid who winked at her with a smile on her face.
Eventually, Brian turned up, apologising profusely for keeping her waiting and asking if she had had a good day. Her mood had lightened by then and she told him all about her friends at Toppers and what had been happening. She never mentioned her altercation with the earlier idiots, preferring to forget all about it.
It was only when Brian returned from the bar with more drinks that it was brought up again.
‘Bloke at the bar said you were a classy piece of work. Mentioned a couple of chancers trying it on with you and you ripped them apart. What was that all about?’ He asked.
She explained what had happened and how it was all because they recognised her from Toppers, but it was nothing new to her; she was used to getting that kind of reaction.
‘Trouble was, those two chancers are colleagues of mine. If it gets back to the office that you were waiting for me then it could get messy.’ Brian explained.
‘Are you saying you are embarrassed to be seen out with an ex-stripper?’ Lucy was getting angry again.
‘No, of course not! Personally, I don’t care what they think. They are a couple of arseholes anyway if it was who I think it was. It’s just that my boss is very religious and he is only just getting over the fact that I am getting divorced. If he knew I was going out with a stripper, sorry, an ex-stripper, then he could make life difficult for me.’ Brian spluttered. After a few seconds pause, he continued. ‘There is another reason which I was going to try and keep from you.’
‘Would it be anything to do with this?’ She asked as she brandished the article on Bradley in front of him. ‘When were you going to mention him? Were you scared the press might find out and get all sanctimonious with you as well? I thought we were getting on well, Brian. I didn’t expect you to tell me everything about you, that’s part of the fun of getting to know each other. But something as major as this? Don’t you trust me?’ She sobbed. ‘I suppose this means that your real surname is Gardner and not Wilde, like you told me.’
Brian just stared into his drink, trying to think of an answer. There wasn’t one. She had caught him out.
‘I’m sorry, Lucy. I should have told you, but I was scared in case Bradley got another load of bad publicity from his family. We’ve already sodded it up for him and I am only just starting to talk to him again. I’m just paranoid now. I keep thinking everything I do is going to be an embarrassment for him.’ Brian wept.
‘Come on, let’s go and have that curry. I’m not happy with you. You have a lot of explaining to do, mister.’ She held his hand as they left the pub.