(1939-02-10) A Duet Composed out of Boredom
Details for A Duet Composed out of Boredom
Summary: A nice drive in the country and a pub lunch.
Date: February 10th, 19339
Location: The Cricketers, Maidenhead

The rare and beautiful clear afternoon, in the middle of February.

Fabia takes one look out the window when she wakes up (well, forty or fifty minutes after her eyelids struggle open) and declares that it's a marvelous day to go for a drive. Perhaps to, oh, Maidenhead? Lunch at the Cricketers…

For some reason (having, one might surmise, a great deal to do with the prospect of opening up the Bentley's engine on at least one nice, isolated stretch of road) Frid falls in with her plan; and so she finishes dressing as fast as she can (not very fast) whilst he prepares the flasks (two for her, one for him) and wraps a slice of ginger cake in wax paper just in case she gets hungry on the way (which has been known to happen on car trips, and woe betide Frid if he's unable to feed her on demand, never mind that the pub's only ten minutes away).

The cake doesn't last long. Though the crumbs from it, besmirching the back seat of the Bentley with their squishy gingery untidiness, may well be eternal, or perhaps it's just Frid's fear for the leather interior and his resentment of Fabia's blithe attitude toward forking cake into herself with one hand and swigging from a flask of cognac held in the other, that'll be eternal.

Cake is as cake does; Fabia is rather keen on the idea of luncheon by the time they arrive at Maidenhead and park (how exquisitely Frid parks) outside the Cricketers.

"Ten down was so 'terracotta'," she asserts for, indeed, the tenth time, as her thoroughly worn-down valet holds open the pub door for her to waft through it in the usual cloud of French scent and fur and frivolity. She's not exhausted. She's been having a lovely day out. And now a lovely drunken luncheon with a masculine companion who isn't allowed to excuse himself early, no matter how hard the time she gives him! Really, could life get any better? "Oh, what rot, there's someone in the booth I like," she pouts, nodding in that direction. "Let's take the one next to it and you can look out and see whether he leaves."

"If ten down is 'terracotta', then thirteen across has to be 'vernocular', and that's not even a word," Frid argues, exasperated, reaching to claim her coat as she steps through the door into the darkened pub. "Gin and tonic?" he suggests, ducking one of the low beams on the way towards the booth, the beams with which she has no issue but have caught his taller form out once or twice before and bestowed lumps on his forehead. "And we'll see what they have on today for lunch."

"Well, I can't help it if the person who compiles the crossword thought 'vernocular' was a word. You know they're quite silly about things like that sometimes." Fabia shrugs off her coat into Frid's hands, her headscarf likewise, and corrects him with a pointed, "Double gin and tonic," as she trots over to the booth next to the booth she likes, leaving Frid to do the rest. All the rest.

The coat is deposited, as is the scarf, on one of the hooks on the wall beside the door, and as Fabia settles into the booth, Frid gives a long suffering sigh and heads for the bar. It's only a minute or two later that he returns, a pint of something dark brown with a creamy head in one hand and a taller glass in the other, bubbles forming on the inside of it and on the wedge of lime at the top. "Fine, fine, it's vernocular. Like monocular or binocular, only with a glass eye, presumably?" The G&T is placed before her on the table before he slides in opposite with his beer.

"Exactly," Fabia declares, suspecting his sarcasm (she's heard enough of it over the years) but determined not to let it spoil her fun. She has stripped off her kid gloves and left them lying limp and disembodied at one end of the table. Her paw fastens speedily around the G&T and she takes a long, refreshing draught. No, we shall have no malaria here. "What's for luncheon, sweetie?" she inquires.

Frid claims the gloves, folding them neatly together before replacing them at the end of the table. "Beef and Guinness pie, and yes, I've ordered you a jacket instead of chips, and garden peas instead of mushy peas," he rattles off before sitting back in his seat and lifting his pint pot. "Your very good health, madam. The chicken's off, or I'd have ordered that, but apparently we're a little late. They stop serving lunch at three."

"Santé," Fabia says happily, clinking what's left of her double G&T against Frid's foaming pint. And then her eyes widen in distress: "Three? Three? How appallingly early. What time is it by now? It can't be long past three. You'd think, as often as we come here," she says, conveniently forgetting that they've popped into the Cricketers only perhaps three times in six months, "they'd make an exception." She downs another half-inch of her drink, adding significantly to the lipstick-smudge on the rim of the glass. "We're not so very late." She sniffs.

Frid refrains from pointing out that the exception has already been made in that they're getting anything to eat at all, no doubt through knowing somebody who knows somebody who's wife knows somebody who works in the kitchen here. And because he's promised that Fabia, at least, will keep the drinks tab ticking over and make it worth everyone's while. "It's almost quarter to four," he does note, resting an elbow on the table before taking a good, long slurp from his beer. There's a lot to be said for a nice pint of ale with a late lunch after a drive in the countryside. "We're going to be very polite and thank them for anything we get, Mrs. Fairfax."

How true it is that Fabia realises not a tenth part of what Frid does to keep her life ticking over just as she likes it to be. She merely chatters on. "Oh, of course we'll be awfully polite, even if they won't let us have any chicken. But can it really be a quarter to four? Are you sure?" She wiggles nearer to the end of the padded bench in her side of the booth and cranes her head round the corner of it to see the Parliament clock over the bar. "Christ, it is!" She leans in again. "You're quite right." As though he'd be imprecise in a matter of timekeeping. He's Frid. "How can it have taken us quite so long to get here? We didn't stop for so very long to look at the view… did we? Do you remember?" She blinks at him, wide-eyed, and sips her G&T.

"I wasn't keeping a close eye on precisely how long we stopped, madam," Frid responds solemnly, turning away from her to double check if the booth behind him is still occupied. "We did take a rather… ah… circuitous route, however," he notes as he returns his attention to her and to his beer. Mostly his beer, if we're honest, which gets a long gulp before the pint mug is back on the table. "For the view. Berkshire is quite lovely at this time of year, if you know where to go." And of course Frid knows where to go. He's Frid.

"You did choose some lovely little side roads," Fabia murmurs wistfully. It is ever her policy to fritter away her time in pursuit of ephemeral beauty. "The pale colours of the landscape, and no one at all to spoil it, except sheep! And sheep don't spoil a view, somehow, they complete it. Oh, do let's come out this way again," she sighs. "It'll be even more amusing in the summer, don't you think?" She tilts her head interrogatively toward Frid; and drains her glass. "Another G&T, sweetie?"

Of course. He's barely a quarter of the way through his pint, and she's knocked the G&T back like it was water. Well, no. Not like it was water. Water she'd turn her nose up at and drink as though it were some form of rare torture. Still, it's hardly unexpected, and he leaves his pint to her tender mercies as he ducks his way past the poker scarred beams towards the bar, itself scarred, although more with the stains of many years good service, a slight tarnish on the brass rail, and the occasional dusting of leaves from the dried hops hung overhead when a draught catches them. There's a brief, quiet conversation between the barman and the valet, before Frid returns to her with her fresh drink in one hand, while the other tucks a book of matches away into a pocket. She drinks, she eats, she'll no doubt want a smoke.

And a cup of something nicely caffeinated will probably be appreciated later on; and she's always got that little enamel pill-box of cocaine in her handbag, just in case her energy flags. Yes, Fabia Fairfax has never met a substance she didn't like. Yes, she has a suspicious bit of foam on her upper lip.

She beams her thanks at Frid as he puts her drink straight into her hand; indeed, why bother with the preliminary step of putting it on the table? He knows her better than that. "Shall we go home the same way, sweetie, or had you another route in mind?" she asks.

"Will you be bored with the same view, though, Mrs. Fairfax?" Frid queries of her as he resumes his seat, wiping the rim of his pint mug with his thumb to remove a suspicious smear of lipstick. "We could go back the same way, or I could show you an equally pretty route somewhere else, or if you're tired I can just drive us straight home." He lifts his pint again for a sip, watching for her response over the rim.

Fabia beams at him. "Oh! I should adore to see the same view from a different angle, sweetie. Or — if you had another in mind that was just as nice — that would be all right too. Whatever you like. You're driving, after all." As is traditional, she pouts a little at this, at Frid's inexplicable reluctance to permit her to get behind the wheel of the Bentley. Honestly, the way he behaves toward that car, you'd think it was the love of his life and the sole reason he continues in her employ… Which can't be true, of course, the sole reason he continues in her employ is the pleasure of her company. "Did you bring the crossword in, sweetie?" she asks brightly. She still hasn't noticed the foam.

"And have you argue ten down all throughout luncheon?" Frid queries drily, a brow raised. But then he relents, reaching into his inside pocket for the folded newspaper and smoothing it out with one hand over the charmingly rustic (for charmingly rustic read wobbly) wooden table at their booth. "Beer," he adds quietly, touching a finger to his own upper lip for a split second.

To give her credit, she's not too drunk to catch on — and to realise she's just been caught. "Oh, fuck," she utters, in her most charming and ladylike manner, and fishes a crumpled hanky out of her handbag with which to dab at her upper lip. She manages to get the foam off — and also smudges her lipstick fractionally, but that was always going to happen, wasn't it. A pub luncheon, at least three G&Ts, these will necessitate significant repairs in the ladies' loo later on, whilst Frid stands about outside holding her coat and scarf and feeling even more foolish than he looks. "Better?" she asks, raising an eyebrow. "… I still don't like beer," she informs him.

He nudges the paper over towards her, one brow raised as he produces one of his thrilling Christmas pens from his top pocket and presents that to her, too. "You know you don't like it," he points out, as though explaining to a child, "so why do you insist on trying mine?"

She's allowed another pen? After what happened to the last one? (The lipstick, the tiny dainty tooth-marks…) Fabia beams, if possible, even more radiantly as she transfers the G&T from her right hand to her left hand, that she might continue imbibing this refreshing and healthful beverage even whilst ruining the crossword which is one of Frid's few pleasures in life.

"Well," she says, "my tastes do change sometimes, darling. And how will I know if I don't try?" She shrugs. "I thought I didn't care for avocadoes and then I suddenly began eating them three or four years ago, d'you remember? And I didn't go to bed with girls for ages till I started again, I thought I'd quite gone off that too. Anyway it's such fun to try and see."

"Oh, I remember," Frid agrees, rolling his eyes up to the ceiling. "And I'm sure I recall insisting then that you weren't to eat avocado in bed any more and fall asleep and make such a mess. And you didn't listen to me then, either."

Vis a vis the avocado Fabia hasn't a leg to stand upon and she knows it.

Thus she returns to the subject of Frid's potations. "It was only a tiny sip of your beer," she promises him faithfully. (It was a gulp, it's almost always a gulp, but let's not quibble. Let's not doubt a lady's word.) "You can have a little of my G&T if you like, if it'll make you feel any better, sweetie. Oh! I rather fancy eight across is 'chryselephantine'." She beams, and turns the folded bit of newspaper around, pushing it across the table toward Frid, eager for some word of approbation.

He returns the paper with a raised brow. "It does fit, I'll grant you," he allows, perhaps a little put out less by the fact that she drunk a little of his beer and more by the fact that she got the crossword clue he'd failed to come up with. "Twenty one down, 'onanism'."

It's too much to hope for that Fabia Fairfax will leave that word alone. "Oh, I quite see… that fits, too, doesn't it? With the 'n' from 'chryselephantine'… Goodness, I'd never have thought of it." She smirks across the table at him. Up goes the G&T again. And… here it comes. "I'm surprised it crossed your mind, sweetie, now you're having such a heavenly time in London," she utters blithely.

Frid doesn't dignify the comment with a response, short of clearing his throat, ears turning bright red, and giving her a Look. "Twenty two across!" he hurriedly changes the subject. "Any thoughts?"

Oh, that's all? Just a Look? Fabia gets ten of those a day. She doesn't react except to waggle her pristinely-drawn eyebrows at him whilst reaching out for the paper, to turn it once again towards herself. Hunting down twenty-two across takes a second or two longer than it would have done before, oh, the second G&T. "A duet I'm composing out of boredom?" she sighs. "Oh, er… Do you suppose… Could it be 'tedium'?"

… And then a bar wench sets down before them a pair of extremely fragrant and promisingly-laden plates. Bless the Cricketers. Pub fare, but very good for what it is, and Fabia's potato looks very sweet in its jacket.

"Well that's an easy one," Frid insists, nodding, before he casts a grateful smile up to the server and dips his head politely. "Ah, thank you, ma'am." A quick, pointed glance towards Fabia and a half nod towards the waitress. Your turn. Be polite.

That done, he unwraps the cutlery from its small paper napkins, offering one to Fabia (he'd lay it on her lap for her, but it's not exactly possible from this angle, and this is clearly an informal luncheon. The distinctions are very important to Frid.) and smoothing the other into his own lap. Knife and fork are likewise offered over, and he waits politely for her to begin her meal.

"Bless you, sweetie," is Fabia's equivalent to 'thank you, ma'am', offered immediately at Frid's prompting — it would have been anyway, of course, but she allows him to think he has some beneficent influence over her behaviour.

And then she looks across the table and sighs fondly at her valet. Oh, Frid. Arranging everything perfectly — the plates are somehow rather more neatly aligned than when 'ma'am', aka 'sweetie', put them down, and each is flanked by cutlery so precisely placed he might as well have used a ruler to measure the distances — and now waiting for her to tuck in first. When he entered her employ all those years ago it took her ages (and a certain amount of mocking) to convince him that it was all right to share a meal with her, sitting down together companionably, when they were out motoring — he'd really be happier eating a very small sandwich while standing up next to the door, just in order to maintain the feudally correct distinction between his station in life and hers.

… But if he did, there'd be every risk that Fabia would stand up and come over to chat with him and end up demanding a bite of his sandwich, just to see whether she liked it any more than whatever it was she was having. And that would be even less suitable, even less appropriate, even less dignified.

Thus the compromise, if 'compromise' is the right word for 'Fabia getting everything she wants and Frid just having to put up with it'.

Fabia commences to poke at the contents of her plate, just so Frid can get on with the contents of his — though they've had only a mouthful of pie apiece when she interrupts his methodical chewing to issue her standard bright, cheery request, as though she's just had the best idea in the world and wants nothing more than to share it with him. "… Sweetie, how about another G&T?"

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License