Chapter 43 - Birthday Cake
Next morning, before breakfast, Mr M took me back up into the main bit of the house and, as soon as we reached the top of the tiled stairs, I could hear the sound of a vacuum cleaner coming from the lounge.
He stuck his head through the doorway and called out, “Good Morning, Mrs Braithwaite.”
“Good morning, Sir,” she replied. “Happy Birthday.”
“You didn’t tell me it was your Birthday!” I protested to him.
“You didn’t ask!” he replied with a smile.
I didn’t bother telling him how… like… totally stupid that was. I mean… there was basically no point when he was in that sort of a mood.
The vacuum cleaner stopped and, after a few seconds, a woman appeared.
She gave my master a quick hug but she didn’t even really pretend to be interested in him. Instead she sort of bustled across to me… and I got to have a look at the first new person I’d seen in about six months.
I guess she was about as old as my mother but that was pretty much the only thing the two had in common. She was quite small and a bit kind of dumpy and she had this broad and welcoming sort of a smile on her face and her eyes kind of totally sparkled with life and energy. She surprised me with this warm hug and I guess I responded… like… pretty awkwardly. I mean… before Mr M had taken over my life, Ro had made quite sure that nobody ever got close enough to think about doing any sort of hugging.
“Hello, love,” she said. “What’s your name?”
OK… that’s not normally the trickiest question in the world but I found myself sort of… like… totally frozen. I mean… I just didn’t know what to say. I mean… I basically had no idea what I wanted to be called.
So I looked across to my master for help. “Take five,” he told me in this totally relaxed voice… almost as if I hadn’t basically forgotten my own name!
At least his five second thing let me get the whole panic bit under control so that I could basically think about what I really wanted to be called.
I mean, I used to be Ro… and I suppose that would work… but somehow I sort of didn’t feel as if I was that Ro any more.
And ‘Babygirl’ would just sound stupid coming from anyone but my master.
By the end of the five seconds, I had reached a decision. “Rose,” I said with this… like… sudden sort of burst of self confidence. “I think I’d like to be called Rose.”
“Then little Rosie it is,” Mrs Braithwaite said. If she was worried by the fact that I’d kind of forgotten my own name, she didn’t show it. I guess it sort of worked with the whole ‘recovering drug addict’ thing. “You can call me Pat.”
’I’ll go and put the kettle on,” Mr M said but Pat hardly noticed. She had taken my two hands in hers and was holding me back so she could sort of study me.
“You’re a tiny thing,” she said. “Hasn’t his lordship been feeding you?”
“Erm… I’ve put on quite a bit of weight since I’ve been here,” I replied a bit awkwardly.
“Well, a bit more meat on you wouldn’t do any harm,” she observed. From anyone else, that would have been… like…. totally rude but she gave my hands this little squeeze thing which seemed to sort of change it from criticism into friendly advice.
“I’ve got to put my things away,” she said. “Do you want to come and give me a hand?” I mean… she didn’t exactly give me an awful lot of choice because she didn’t let go of one of my hands as she bustled on through into the lounge. There she handed me a huge bucket which had all her cleaning stuff in it whilst she collected the vacuum cleaner.
And, all the while, she kept up this continuous stream of conversation… well… not exactly conversation… more like a continuous stream of talking… telling me all about herself, her husband who did odd jobs round the house and looked after the garden, and her two grandchildren who lived nearby.
I mean… she did ask me the odd question… I guess when she sort of had to stop for breath or something… but they were basically simple questions and only needed one word answers which was a good thing because my brain had pretty much turned to jelly [jello].
After we had taken the cleaning stuff back to a store cupboard, she sort of led me through to the conservatory at the back of the house. Breakfast had been laid out for two on a table next to the pool but, as we arrived, my master was laying out one more set of plates and cutlery and stuff.
“I’m almost certain that I asked you to set breakfast for three,” he said in a tone which would have sounded grumpy if I didn’t know him so well.
“I can’t…” Pat started to protest.
“You can and you will,” he told her in his finest master’s voice .
Pat gave me a look that basically told me she knew that I had to put up with loads of this sort of stuff.
And we shared a bit of a smile.
Mr M sort of guided Pat and me into our places and it was only then that I noticed this… like… huge bowl of cherries in the middle of the table… CHERRIES!
“I didn’t know you liked cherries,” my master said when he saw my eyes. “There are so many interesting things you can do with…” he did one of his pause things… “cherries.” Then he added a bit of an eyebrow wiggle which sort of made me blush and earned him a slap from Pat.
Yep, I was definitely starting to like Pat!
Breakfast was fun. I guess, because Pat was there, I was allowed to feed myself… but it didn’t stop my master from popping the odd cherry into my mouth. I mean… I would basically have expected to have… like… died of embarrassment or something but the smiles told me that Pat was finding the whole thing pretty funny. So I decided I could basically relax and… like… sort of go with it!
And then, after breakfast, Mr M told us that he had to go and work on my ideas from the day before… and when I did my ‘confused puppy’ thing, he reminded me about the stuff we’d been talking about just before we came upstairs for our swim.
And I had to have a little think about that. I mean… so much had happened since then that it was… like… kind of hard to believe that it was only yesterday!
“Babygirl,” he said, “Mrs Braithwaite has strict instructions to treat anything you say to her in complete confidence. In particular, she will not repeat it to me.”
I looked at him then nodded. I couldn’t think of anything I might want to say to her like that but I guess it was still kind of nice to know.
“I thought that you might want to bake a birthday cake for his lordship this morning,” Pat said as soon as we were on our own.
“Like… YEAH!” I sort of exploded.
It sounded like it might be kind of fun and I totally loved the idea of making something special for his birthday. “But I don’t really know how to do it,” I sort of had to tell her.
And, as I heard myself saying it, I sort of noticed just how much I had changed. I mean Pat was obviously the total domestic goddess thing and Ro would never have been able to admit to someone like that that she didn’t know how to do something as… like… totally basic as baking a cake.
But, for the shiny, new me, it was just something new and exciting to learn…
And besides… I just knew how pleased Mr M would be.
“Don’t you go worrying about that,” Pat said, giving me a grin. “I’ve baked plenty in my time! I can show you how to go about it!”
By the time that mixture was ready, I’m sure Pat knew me better than my own mother - not that that would have been particularly hard. She asked me whole heaps of questions, some of which were a bit… well… personal… or even… like… intimate… and I quickly managed to work out that she was checking that everything was OK with my life with Mr M. For a couple of the questions, I had to do the ‘five seconds’ thing but Pat didn’t seem to be overly worried by that.
But, I noticed, all her questions were kind of about now… none about the whole ‘life before’ bit. And I could sort of see that that kind of worked with the whole ‘recovering drug addict’ sort of idea.
And then, while the cake was in the oven, she gave my hair a quick trim. “I don’t mind a bit,” she assured me, “but you might get funny looks if you go out in public like that.”
And, as I was brushing the last of those blue highlights up off the floor, it sort of struck me that I was basically brushing away the very last bits of Ro. I felt a bit sad about that… but just for a moment… I didn’t think I was going to miss her all that much.
She really wasn’t a very happy girl.
Besides, all the best bits of her were still sort of tucked away inside me… to be… like… let out whenever I needed them!
After a couple of hours, I’d baked my first ever cake and, once it had cooled, I iced it and then decorated it with candles. And, as Mrs Braithwaite bustled off home to collect her grandchildren from school, I carefully carried it downstairs.
And I was pretty pleased with myself as I presented it to my master. Pat had been keeping an eye on me, of course, but I’d basically done it all by myself… and, now I’d done one, I was pretty sure that I’d be able to manage the next one all on my own.
Then, after lunch, I lit the candles and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ for him. And that was another thing that the old Ro could never have dreamt of doing… putting herself on show like that… basically putting herself in a position where she might be laughed at.
Of course I knew my master would never laugh at me… well… certainly not about something like that which really mattered. I mean… he was never slow to tell you if you were doing something wrong… or stupid… but, somehow, whenever he did, you always ended up feeling better about yourself than before he started.
But it was more than that. I’m pretty sure that the biggest thing he’d managed to teach me was that I was basically this worthwhile person… and it didn’t matter what anyone else thought.
And, funnily enough, that was sort of exactly what Ro always wanted to think… but she just never had enough of the whole self confidence bit to be able to pull it off.
Then, when we had eaten a lump of cake each, I moved around the table and knelt in front of him, with one hand on his knee. I’d been sort of thinking about this when Pat and I had been busy with the whole cake business and I’d decided that with his birthday and everything, now was just the right time.
“Master,” I said, forcing myself to stay calm and meet his eye in spite of the funny butterfly sort of things that were going off in my tummy, “I’m not going to ask you for this… firstly because I know you don’t like me begging for stuff… and secondly because it’s not the kind of thing I’m inclined to beg for… but I want to tell you that I would be entirely comfortable with the idea of you taking my virginity tonight.”
He helped me to stand up then pulled me onto his lap and he did one of his own five second silence things. Then he kissed me and said, “Let’s not say ‘tonight’, because that would put undue pressure on us both to ‘perform’… he gave me this lovely little smile and I sort of had to smile back… “let’s just say some time, in the not too distant future, when it feels right.”
I thought about this for a bit… I knew he wouldn’t put up with anything else… then I nodded.
He pulled me to him and I curled up in a little ball and snuggled my head into his shoulder. He held me like that for a little while.
But then he sort of broke the whole atmosphere bit with this sharp little pat on my bottom. “But in the meantime, you’ve got those French subjunctive forms to learn and I’ve got to finish setting up a test run for those code deltas. Then I thought we could go for a stroll around the garden and take another swim - try and work off this delicious cake!”
He popped me down off his lap and managed to squidge my bottom as I scurried off in the direction of my babygirl corner. I glanced back over my shoulder at him but didn’t bother to say anything. We shared a smile as he knew what I was thinking.
And, a couple of hours later, we set off on our walk.
This time, he took me out through the front door. Here there was this big sort of tarmac area for cars and then this long driveway thing led off up to the grassy slope to a road.
And, because the slope was quite steep, the driveway had to do this sort of S thing.
And, as soon as I saw it, I knew it was perfect for one thing.
“Oh no!” Mr M said when he saw what I was thinking. “You’re not coming anywhere near my car with your skateboard again. Not after last time!”
But I could tell he was basically not… like… totally serious…
OK, maybe I’d have to make sure he moved his car first!
We sort of shared a smile at the memory as he grabbed my hand and we set off up the slope together.
We strolled up to the gate at the top then made our way down past the side of the house and on into the woody bit at the bottom of his garden. The leaves were sort of snowing down off the trees on us and there was… like… this bit of a nip thing in the air… and I was sort of glad that I was wearing my shiny new jacket. There was no doubt that autumn was here.
“I totally missed summer,” I said. I wasn’t really all that sad about it, just a bit surprised.
“Don’t worry about that, Babygirl, I can take you to summer. I’ve heard the Canary Islands can be really nice round Christmas time… plenty of sunshine… an isolated villa by the sea… mojito and fresh fish… Do you fancy that?”
I turned and hugged him. It sounded like a wonderful idea. Of course I’d never been abroad before… In fact, basically, I’d never really been anywhere before.
“Then I’m going to have to get you learning Spanish…” he told me, wrapping his arms round me and squidging my bottom. “And I need to get you swimming properly… so we can go snorkeling together.”