(1939-02-16) A Barmaid's Work Is Never Done
Details for A Barmaid's Work Is Never Done
Summary: Fabia has some additional duties for Tessa.
Date: February 16, 1939
Location: Upstairs at the Three Broomsticks

Fabia's Rooms

Her latest absence in London having been more than usually protracted, more than usually social, Fabia Fairfax is prostrate upon the bed very soon after returning to her ostensible home in Hogsmeade. She has taken off the sable coat and bottle-green velvet frock in which she came through the 'Floo (shadowed by the sober, dark-suited, suitcase-laden form of Frid) and donned her peacock dressing-gown — though her silk stockings still show upon her ankles and her feet, her diamonds are still glittering ferociously upon her hands and in her ears, and her lips form a perfect carmine cupid's bow… at least till she hears a familiar, rather distinctive knock at her sitting-room door.

"Come in, Tessa," she calls — a call which fades into a sigh. She cuddles the pillow she has turned sideways and put her head upon, hardly bothering to stir, let alone to get up. When Frid took the puppy out, he promised to have another drink sent up to her in ten minutes, when she'd have had time to finish the frst one. This must be it. She likes drinks. She doesn't stand on ceremony when it comes to drinks. Drinks are always welcome. Martinis especially.

The knock is deliberate, and quick; there's nothing hesitant about it. The sharp rapport cuts through the room, and of course, Fabia knows exactly who it is, having heard it performed enough times in exactly the same way. Once it's acknowledged, the door opens, and in walks - gasp - Tessa, a tray in her hand with a martini atop it, the usual thing to bring the proprietress when she calls for a drink. "Good evening, Mrs. Fairfax," she says in her crisp, clear voice, the one she's worked so hard to cultivate, shedding all traces of her South London roots. She walks toward the other woman, placing the tray down on the nightstand next to her bed, "Can I get you anything else?"

"Oh, bless you, sweetie," Fabia sighs. One of her arms unclenches from the pillow she's curled around and reaches up, hunting for the glass. Frid always puts her drinks in the same place, to the last tenth of an inch, so that she'll always know where to find them; but Tessa is not Frid, is she. Tessa is rather pretty. Fabia smiles to herself and, slowing the movement of her hand, her small and aged but perfectly soft and French-manicured hand, happens at last upon the stem of the cocktail glass. "Anything… else? Christ, I don't know." She tries to sit up a little, to drink; her elegantly made-up face creases into a brief grimace. The glass touches her lips and she drinks thirstily. Another sigh. "Christ," she says again, "my back hurts."

As has been noted, Tessa is, indeed, not Frid, but luckily she didn't place the glass far enough away so that Fabia's grasping would send the glass tumbling to the floor. The glass itself, of course, would be replaceable; the real shame would be to waste such a well-mixed martini. Tessa steps back as Fabia begins to sip (or perhaps 'gulp' would be a better word), though when she mentions her back, her delicately arched brows furrow. "Already?" she says, her concern evident, "It seems as though you'll need to start making more frequent appointments. Shall I try to see what I can do in the meantime?" She's not a masseuse, perhaps, but she does have clever fingers.

Another gulp of the martini — Fabia drinks gin as though it were water — and, leaning on one hand, she eyes Tessa, doing her very best to focus. "What you can do?" she asks, not immediately grasping the nature of the offer. She did have a very late night. And an abrupt morning. And as for what happened with the avocado — mercy. No woman could be at her most intellectually acute after such adventures.

A chuckle escapes Tessa at this, though she manages to turn it into a quick clearing of her throat, schooling her face into its former somber expression before she continues. "A massage, Mrs. Fairfax," she says, raising her hands and flexing her fingers to emphasize her point, "Would you like a massage?" Her fingers are rather long, especially for a woman of her height, and slender, though very deft, as Fabia has come to know, having imbibed many of the concoctions prepared by them.

"Oh…" Fabia murmurs, intrigued. "That would be rather lovely, sweetie, if you don't //mind…" She lifts from her glass the stick upon which a trio of olives are speared; draws one off the end with very tender red lips and crunches it a couple of times; takes another deep, thirsty gulp; and sets the drink aside.

And so it is that when Frid returns with the pug puppy Honey in tow, he finds his employer sprawled untidily upon her bed, dressed in stockings and a petticoat and little else, with Tessa of all people massaging her shoulders and her back. Another day in the life of Fabia Fairfax.

"Of course not," Tessa replies, motioning for her employer to turn over. Once she's obeyed, Tessa moves to the side of the bed, placing her hands on Fabia's back and beginning to knead the tension from her muscles. There's quite a bit of tension, though what it comes from is anybody's guess, since she's rich. Of course, everyone has their crosses to bear. "Is this all right?" she asks, her voice quiet, soothing even, as she works her fingers into a knot that even she, inexperienced as she is, can feel is particularly stubborn.

"Oh, marvelous, sweetie," sighs Fabia, that arch-hedonist, as she lolls about and relaxes inch by inch beneath Tessa's touch. The girl may not be an expert masseuse, but any port in a storm, and after last night — good heavens.

It's Honey who first announces Frid's return, Frid himself having some sort of uncanny valet-skills which mean he, under usual circumstances, can move practically unnoticed, but the pug having the precise opposite effect. Darting into the room as soon as Frid opens the door, the puppy is soon skidding across towards the bed, towards Tessa (who looks after her so well) and towards Fabia (who feeds her treats and squashes her to her bosom), so fast that her legs can't quite keep up with her intent, and she just bowls into the side of the bed before shaking herself off and running around in circles. For his part, Frid just quietly closes the door, with a long suffering roll of eyes upwards.

"Oh, Honey," Fabia sighs, once that small but emphatic barking makes itself audible. She does love her puppy. Provided other people, Tessa and Frid, do the work of looking after her, which is only right and proper. She drapes an arm over the edge of the bed, her hand hanging low for her still-petite canine companion to find and sniff — which she does. "Oh, don't stop, Tessa, sweetie." Even though Honey means, inevitably, Frid. The one could hardly have returned without the other. But when has Fabia ever been so very particular about how she appears in front of her valet? The man is famed for his ability to stare resolutely at walls.

The arrival of Honey - and, of course, Frid, though it's Honey who makes the noise, and so must take most of the blame - shatters whatever calm Tessa had managed to cultivate. "Honey, no!" Tessa says…or at least, begins to say, for before she can say much else, the dog is called over by her mistress, and Frid's long-suffering look is mirrored by Tessa, though by now she's used to Fabia's permissive ways with the little creature (after all, who is the one who has to attempt to train Honey out of them?). With a little sigh, Tessa continues her ministrations with -almost- the same attitude as before, though the pressure she puts against Fabia's back is perhaps a trifle more, now. "Good evening, Frid," she says, glancing to him with a nod before she turns back to her current activities, "I hope you're well?"

"Miss Tessa," Frid responds, dipping his head and glancing around the room. Fabia is occupied, giving him a chance to either a) stare at the wall, or b) tidy. There was never going to be any contest, no matter how much he admires the plasterwork, and he's soon got her discarded coat hanging up, her discarded frock in one arm to put away who knows where (Frid knows where) for laundering, the hat, the bag, and the room is almost, almost returned to a state he'd be happy with.

The sounds of Frid moving about, tidying or French-polishing or whatever it is he does, are so familiar to Fabia that her mind discards them. Ambient noise, like the crackling of logs in the fireplace (which Frid placed there) and the jazz record playing very, very softly in the next room (guess who). His voice, though, penetrates into the exhausted and increasingly sensually satisfied fog in her brain. "Oh, Frid, sweetie," she murmurs into a pillow, "Tessa said she'd have a go at my back…" Her fingertips wiggle, petting Honey's head, stroking her velvety-soft dark ears. She manages an upwards scoop to help the puppy onto the bed. As though Tessa hadn't enough to contend with.

This is clearly what Honey had been waiting for, and as soon as she's lifted onto the bed, she begins to add her services to Tessa's, walking up and down her mistress' back. Tessa's mouth twists as she leans down in an attempt to shoulder the dog to the side while still working on the muscles, but it's a losing battle, as it always seems to be when one ventures to strike a little common sense into one of Fabia's schemes. However, Tessa's nothing if not determined, (well, some might say 'insane,' but they wouldn't be very nice, now would they?) and so she perseveres, looking more and more ridiculous as the dog now starts jumping up and down on Fabia's spine.

Somebody has to make a stand. Somebody has to ruin Fabia's fun. And isn't it always Frid? He exhales, making his way over to claim the wriggling puppy from his employer's back, holding her out in front of him as though the pug were radioactive. "Mrs. Fairfax, don't encourage her," he chides. "No dogs on the bed. We've discussed this."

"Oh, she's only little," is Fabia's inapplicable stock answer to every situation which may arise with Honey. Who does she think she's convincing? "Oh, Frid, give her a biscuit, will you? Or something to chew," she pleads, having lost the battle. She shifts position on the bed, wriggling discontentedly all of a sudden, her hip resting against Tessa where the girl is sitting sideways next to her. "She doesn't mean to be naughty, you know." Of course. The puppy doesn't mean to be naughty. No prizes for guessing what her mistress means.

"Mrs. Fairfax, she won't be little forever." Of course, this has been said so many times that it's practically become Tessa's catch phrase. And if one's being completely honest, the puppy will never really grow very big, but Tessa's meaning is clear. Well, clear to everyone but the one at whom it's always directed, that is. She gives Frid a quick, grateful glance, before returning to her current duties, made much simpler now without the presence of a dog-cum-masseuse.

Frid looks unconvinced by either argument, simply disappearing with the dog to settle her down with who knows what. If he had his way it would probably be dog biscuits laced with strychnine, given the troubles that Honey (and Fabia) invariably give him, but let's just assume it's a bone. Or a slipper. Or both. On his return, he gives Fabia's glass a quick glance, judging the levels in it, and moves towards the drinks trolley to begin preparing the next. "Will we be wanting a bath before supper, madam?" he queries, his tone very much suggesting it.

Her masseuse may be an amateur, but, by God, she's a very pretty amateur with (as Fabia has more than once scandalised Frid by remarking) a most appealing shape; and it makes one feel contented, in fact downright smug, to have such a girl's hands upon one, under any pretext. And to feel smug is rather relaxing. Tessa is, thus, doing better work than she knows. Fabia sprawls bonelessly upon her bed (made perfectly by Frid, of course, before the last time he and she departed for London) and offers a feeble, "She's a good dog, really," and then a doubtful, "Well, I'd like to rest for a while, Frid, sweetie… I suppose I could rest in the bath…"

"Mm-hmm," is all the reply that Fabia's first comment gets from Tessa, for there's really nothing anyone can say against the dog that Fabia will accept. Tessa's fingers find another particularly stubborn knot, and she begins working to smooth it out, though it doesn't take long, relaxed as Fabia is. "I think you ought to, Mrs. Fairfax," she continues, shifting a little to get better purchase, "Frid knows what he's about, and your dinner will be ready soon." With that, she places both palms against Fabia's shoulders, pushing lightly, before she rises once more from the bed, taking a step back. "I believe it's roast duck tonight. I know that you particularly liked that, last time Cook prepared it."

There's the sound of the cocktail shaker from Frid's direction, the wonderfully appealing sound of a forthcoming fresh martini, a waft of juniper drifting across the room with it. "A nice warm bath," he coaxes her, "and I'll lay you some clothes out for this evening. Will we be at home this evening? Are we expecting any guests?" Probably blonde guests, but Fabia's not all that picky.

"… Can't remember," Fabia utters into her lovely silky bedspread. "Live in hope," she adds, referring rather obviously to herself. "Oh, Tessa…" A piteous sigh. "Just five more minutes?" How many times has Frid heard those words, usually whilst holding a pot of tea in one hand and a schedule for the day in the other?

Tessa's gotten to where she not only because she knows when to indulge her employer's whims, but also because she knows when to deny them, and so she shakes her head with an easy smile, though of course, both of these are wasted on Fabia, positioned as she is with her face against the bed. "You'll much prefer a hot bath, I'm sure," she demurs, moving to collect the used martini glasses and the tray she'd used to bring the first one up, "Just think how lovely."

Whereas Frid has learned by now that 'just five more minutes' means Fabia needs more incentive than mere words to move. "I'll have your martini in the bathroom ready for you," he promises, disappearing with it (noooooo!) through the other door from her bedroom, from which the sound of running water soon emanates.

Tessa, though not Frid, is in a position to hear the groan of, "Bloody sadist," from their mutual employer, as she levers her limp and groggy and lingerie-clad form up off the bed. What was she doing last night, and with whom? It's possible Frid has some idea — he keeps her engagements diary, inasmuch as anyone does — but for Tessa, these trips to London, which become more and more frequent, and tend to grow from two nights into three or four, are never entirely understood or explained.

Eventually Fabia just reaches out a hand to Tessa: "Help me up, sweetie?" she implores. Her makeup is no longer pristine. Her hair is slightly mussed. Her bare arms are unusually shapely, unusually muscular for a woman of her (presumed) years. She makes rather a nice ruin, all things considered.

Nor are the sojourns remarked upon, nor even dwelt upon in the privacy of her thoughts, by the ever obliging Tessa. At least, if they are dwelt upon, no one knows it but her, and so does it really matter? She finishes collecting the glasses, placing them all upon the tray before her assistance is sought again, and she makes her way back toward the bed, where she grasps the offered hand with a firm grip. Once Fabia rises, Tessa begins to lead her toward the bath, offering a steady arm for the apparently exhausted woman.

With the water running, and Fabia supported by a Tessa shaped frame, it's all the excuse Frid needs to escape again. Tessa can help her into the bath, after all, which saves him the trouble of staring conscientiously at the grouting and still turning bright red. One might wonder why Fabia has a male valet rather than a female maid to attend her, given her propensity to discard clothing willy nilly and her utter lack of shame, but then… it's Frid. Wouldn't you?

Exhausted, of course, by the hurly-burly of the Glamourous Life — Fabia tucks one hand into the crook of Tessa's arm, and with the other plucks absent-mindedly through the thin silk of her petticoat at the suspenders which hold up her silk stockings. Or rather, by the time the two women cross the threshold of the bathroom, are no longer holding up anything — her stockings have slipped already halfway down her legs. She sinks into the chair next to the bath and lifts one foot into her lap for just long enough to tug off the stocking in particular and drop it on the floor. Frid will pick it up. Frid will pick everything up. Frid picks things off the light fixtures sometimes, or fishes them out from under the bed, or in the dog's basket, or picks up the occasional garment from the passageway outside. Frid is very well-paid, and practiced in a strict routine of denial, denial, denial.

As for Fabia, she'll undress in front of one of her bar girls as readily as she will practically anybody else. She gave up on bashfulness many years ago, finding it an impediment to her more interesting qualities. Her big green eyes more or less focus on Tessa as she looks up and yawns (behind a hastily-upraised hand), "Where did Frid go? Has he gone? Where did he put my martini?" It's on the edge of the bath, but — but — the other end of the bath. What a distance to have to manage across.

If Tessa's not used to Fabia's habits by now, she never will be (that is to say, she is used to them). Thus, she isn't phased by the sudden lack of clothes, and merely helps her into the bath, supporting her until it's impossible to imagine that she could fail to make it down the rest of the way. In other words, she supports her all the way. "Here it is, Mrs. Fairfax," she replies, reaching over for the martini glass and handing it to her, "Frid's gone to check on your dinner." Or one of the thousand other things that Frid takes care of for her that her player's already enumerated. She straightens, then, "I'm going to go down now, Mrs. Fairfax, but I'll send one of the other girls up for you, all right?" She's already moving toward the door; as long as the girl she sends is pretty, Fabia probably won't notice the difference.

And, indeed, Fabia doesn't notice the difference — no matter which of them brings her next round — for her eyes are shut and her cocktail glass is against her lips and she's beginning to feel human again. Beginning, indeed, to look forward to the evening.

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