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Carrie was no royalist — few people with more than a couple of brain cells to rub together are, as far as she was concerned — but she wasn’t one to pass up the opportunity to show off her baking skills. So it was that she found herself preparing scones for the jubilee party at work.
‘Party’ was a bit of a stretch, admittedly. A fuddle, they called it. People were bringing party food, nibbles and so on, all of which would be consumed during their fifteen minute afternoon break. Carrie was bringing scones. Scones were what really mattered for any kind of afternoon tea as far as she was concerned, and hers were perfect. She had paid careful attention to every stage and every detail and they had turned out exactly as intended. No mishaps, no accidents, and certainly no ruined clothes to strip off.
She was utterly determined that nothing would ruin her scones. Which is why she visited a small artisanal produce store in a leafy suburb outside the city centre the day before the event. The party, that is. Even Insuracar weren’t tight enough to try and make their staff work a bank holiday. She couldn’t care less about the jubilee itself and loudly told anybody who asked.
Anyway, the reason Carrie was in that particular shop on that particular day was that she was browsing for the perfect jam to go with her scones. She couldn’t let Ryan cheap out with a 99 pence jar from the supermarket, even if that meant Insuracar footing the bill instead of her. Some times it’s worth forking out for quality, and the appearance of Carrie’s scones was such a time.
She would need clotted cream, too, naturally, but she had already spotted that in a fridge near the door on her way in, and the jam needed much more of her focus. There were so many to choose from, after all, and it had to be just right. She was almost disappointed in the end, to realise regular old strawberry was the classic accompaniment for a reason. As tempting as pineapple and mango jam sounded, it just wouldn’t seem right on scones.
Grabbing four jars and a two tubs of clotted cream, Carrie paid, thanked the predictably hippy-looking woman behind the counter, and headed for the door. At least, she tried to, but quickly realised she couldn’t carry them all in her hands and that the other woman had disappeared into the back without offering her a carrier bag. Not the end of the world, Carrie told herself, just need to be careful. She formed a small tower on the counter — four jam jars on the bottom, two tubs of clotted cream stacked atop. It was a stretch for her hands to get around the jam jars, but the walk home was too much of a hassle to do twice. Besides, if she could manage three pint pots in a pub, surely she could manage this.
Slowly, carefully, she lifted the tower of condiments off the counter and held them at chest height. This way, she could keep a close eye on them and make sure she wasn’t causing the cream to slide around too much.
Everything was fine and dandy all the way up to her third gingerly taken step, at which point she came face-to-face with the door. Ah. This was a problem. There was no way Carrie could open it herself, and she was too shy to shout out. What could she shout, anyway? Hello, woman, please help? No.
Then her problem solved itself. Kind of.
Another customer barged in, one eye on her phone, jangling the bell above the door. This would have been fine — an escape route free of social awkwardness — except that the newcomer didn’t see Carrie, and Carrie was too overburdened with jam to get out of the way in time.
The result happened in slow motion from Carrie’s point of view. The door slammed into her first, followed by the stranger, who had too much momentum to stop in time and was too distracted by her phone to notice there was a problem before it was too late. The plastic tubs containing clotted cream were crushed between the two bodies, causing their contents to spurt upwards as though shot from a sprinkler. At the same time, the jam jars fell to the floor, shattering instantly, and splattering the feet and calves of both women. Unfortunately for Carrie, she had taken advantage of the pleasant spring weather by wearing open-toed sandals, meaning the brunt of the mess went all over her mostly-bare feet.
Even more unfortunately, the fountain of clotted cream landed on her head, face and chest before her body had finished reacting to the sticky jam now coating her feet. The other woman’s momentum had transferred to the heavy dairy slop and so it was only ever going to go one way. Carrie winced, shuddering slightly as the cream landed. Two tubs meant two thick ropes of cream, running from the top of her head to her chest, with the odd gap here and there. As if that weren’t enough of a pain, her other concession to the weather had been a maroon coloured spaghetti strap top. This meant two things. Firstly, the light and flimsy cotton was no match for the thick, gooey cream, and offered little protection for her chest. Secondly, the cream was dikimevi escort easily able to ooze inside the garment through the gap between it and her chest. The result of all of this, of course, was that she soon felt the slop in her bra, coolly coating her nipples and a decent section of her sizeable breasts.
Little of this registered with Carrie right away. She was too befuddled by the whole situation to be mindful of the physical sensations. Was she supposed to apologise, berate the woman for not looking where she was going, or simply get out of there? Fight or flight? Britishness took over and she muttered an apology while crouching to try and make an ineffectual and ill-conceived attempt to clean up the jam and broken glass.
‘You should be sorry,’ the woman replied, instantly classifying herself as a bitch in Carrie’s mind.
‘Well you really should have been watching where you were going,’ she replied, hackles up. She wanted first and foremost for this situation to be over, but she wasn’t going to let this woman blame her for a mess of her creation. Tellingly, the other woman had made no effort to help with the mess.
‘I beg your pardon?’ the woman sounded genuinely shocked that somebody would do anything but agree and apologise.
Before she could make this even clearer, the shopkeeper reappeared. ‘Oh, dear. What’s happened here?’
‘She barged into me,’ the two women said in tandem.
‘I see,’ the shopkeeper tutted. ‘Well don’t be silly and go picking up glass with your fingers. Wait there and I’ll get a dustpan and brush.’
The older woman floated away into the back again, leaving Carrie and the rude woman in heatedly awkward silence. Carrie suddenly felt very away of the fact that she was still crouched at the other woman’s feet, and stood up. The process of straightening up gave her a close-up view of the woman and her outfit. She too had made the mistake of wearing sandals, but the bottom of her cut-off jeans were also splattered, where Carrie’s bare legs had taken the brunt of her splattering. There was a pale brown blouse above that, satin, but light and airy. Finally, her face was obscured by a large pair of sunglasses, but Carrie thought there was something recognisable about what she could see. Maybe it was the long blonde hair, maybe it was something else.
‘Katie? Carrie asked.
‘Carrie? Oh my God, no way.’
The mood in the room changed instantly with that recognition. It was one thing for Carrie to think a horrible stranger had caused this mess, but a colleague? Not exactly a friend, but someone she knew relatively well. She didn’t want to cause a scene — any more a scene, anyway — with someone she would have to deal with again tomorrow morning.
‘I’m so sorry,’ Katie said, much to Carrie’s relief. ‘My head was elsewhere.’
‘I should have seen that and stepped back. Don’t worry about it.’
‘But this mess. Oh this was all for the party, wasn’t it? I’m so sorry.’
‘It was. I guess I’ll have to get some more now. It’s fine, honestly. No big deal.’
‘I know how expensive this place is.’ Katie has switched to a whisper, obviously not wanting to be heard complaining.
‘Worth it, though. What are you here for, actually?’
‘Oh, uh, just browsing really.’
Something about Katie’s response and her body language made Carrie extremely suspicious, but it wasn’t as if she was likely to be up to anything she shouldn’t be, was it? Not in a cutesie little shop. If Katie wanted to be secretive, so be it, it was no concern of Carrie’s. ‘Fair enough,’ she said, wishing the shopkeeper would hurry up now that things had gotten a little uncomfortable again.
Luckily, the shopkeeper chose that moment to make her return. Her timing couldn’t have been more pristine if it had been scripted. ‘Here we are,’ she said, stepping through the space between Katie and Carrie.
‘Oh, no, let me get that for you,’ Carrie insisted. She crouched alongside the shopkeeper and held her hands out. Katie stayed where she was, noticeably.
‘I’d offer to help but, uh, I’ve got a bit of a bad back.’
‘Oh. Right,’ Carrie said, looking up at her co-worker again and feeling just the slightest bit squeamish at the difference in stature between them. It wasn’t a particularly convincing reason for not helping, but nor was it one Carrie could really call out. The shopkeeper had left her to the job now, too, and was busy asking Katie what she needed. Carrie suddenly felt very small, and not just because she was crouching. She had been discarded, just like the broken glass and ruined jam she was trying to collect in a dustpan. To make matters worse, the tight confines of the shop meant that Katie had to step over her to get to the counter — a literal manifestation of how she was feeling. What was that phrase they’d taught her in college, prophetic phalanx or something?
In her self-pity, she failed to notice what had been happening with the spillage. The way she had been dikmen escort absent mindedly sweeping up the mess meant that she was speckling her calves with more mess. She had been pressing down too hard, and every sweeping motion had released the tension in the brush’s bristles, spraying, the sticky mixture of jam and cream in her direction. She realised this with a shudder, which helped to remind her, regrettably, of the cream inside her top and, most regrettably of all, inside her bra. She would have to remember not to make any sudden movements in future, because it was bad enough having the gooey stuff inside her underwear but moving it around was a whole new level of unpleasantness.
The dustpan was full now, at least, though there was still plenty to tidy up. She stood carefully, stiffly, trying to avoid as much adverse jiggle as possible. Just like Katie, she thought, who was currently waiting for the shopkeeper to grab something from a shelf close to the floor. Since Carrie didn’t know where the nearest bin was, she also had to wait for Katie’s order to be completed. This meant she had time to think about things. It was a funny coincidence, she thought, that Katie was moving stiffly, too. Wouldn’t it be funny if there was nothing wrong with her back and she also had some kind of gunk inside her underwear? Not likely, though. Katie thought ruefully about the amount of clotted cream clinging to her breasts right now and was sure she had pretty much all of it.
No, the only way Katie could be suffering a similar problem was if she had deliberately put herself in that position and that was ridiculous. Right?
It dawned on Carrie that it wasn’t a million years since she had gotten accidentally messy and how that had ended up. The idea that people would do such a thing on purpose would have been laughable before that, but now? It wasn’t completely unreasonable, was it? She found herself watching Katie very closely, then, feeling less and less sure about her earlier assertion that it was a funny coincidence. Exactly what she was looking for was unclear. After all, if Katie had injured her back it made sense that she would be moving awkwardly.
‘How are we getting on with that mess?’ The shopkeeper asked, interrupting Carrie’s thoughts.
‘Oh, uh, alright. Where’s the bin actually?’ Carrie replied, showing her the full dustpan.
‘Just in the back. Here, let me get that.’ The shopkeeper extended her arms and carefully took the dustpan from Carrie.
Katie at least had the decency to mouth another apology, motioning to her own back with one arm and putting on a theatrical wince. Oddly, it made Carrie feel less and less convinced by the excuse, but she still wasn’t comfortable with calling her out on it. The cost-reward equation just didn’t add up. If she contested Katie’s claim and was right, what would happen? Katie would be a little embarrassed and would probably never talk to her again. If she was wrong, Carrie would look like a complete bitch.
Still, she couldn’t get over the idea that Katie was fibbing. She needed proof.
When the shopkeeper returned with the empty dustpan and returned to serving Katie, Carrie decided she couldn’t let the issue go. Ignoring the slimy, sticky discomfort it caused her as best she could, she swept up more hurriedly this time. She cringed non-stop, despite her best efforts, but she got the job done before Katie could finish her order.
‘Sorry, there you go,’ Carrie said, squeezing carefully past Katie to hand the refilled dustpan over once more.
Katie moved out of the way, but that didn’t mean much in and of itself. After all, Carrie was still splattered with sticky mess. She would try to avoid her, too, if she had been in Katie’s shoes. ‘Can I get the same again, please, and this time I’ll try not to dump it all over your floor.’
‘Sure,’ the woman said. ‘Let me just finish up with your friend here. Thirteen-fifty, please. Thank-you.’
Affecting an air of curiosity, Carrie enquired about Katie’s purchases. ‘Stuff for the party?’
‘Oh, uh, yeah.’ Katie seemed unsure again, as if she couldn’t remember what she had purchased just seconds before. Or, more likely, Carrie thought, like she hadn’t had chance to come up with a believable lie. But why lie at all?
‘What are you bringing?’ Carrie asked, unwilling to let it drop now.
‘Just party food, you know? Nibbles, crisps, bites, that kind of thing.’
‘Interesting that you’d come here for something like that.’
‘Well, might as well get the good stuff, right?’
‘Right.’ Carrie tried to peer into Katie’s bag as surreptitiously as possible. Unfortunately, trying to be subtle meant she couldn’t see anything.
‘Oh, hang on.’ A third voice chimed in. It was the shopkeeper. ‘You forgot your jam. I don’t know if I’ve ever sold so many jars in one afternoon. Jubilee is certainly doing me some good, no matter what people say.’
Guilt flashed across Katie’s face. It went as quickly elmadağ escort as it came, but Carrie didn’t miss it. She had been watching Katie carefully this whole time, and she recognised an “uh-oh” when she saw one.
‘More jam, hmm?’ she asked innocently.
‘Well, obviously not everything is for the work party,’ Katie answered with impressive smoothness. ‘Anyway, I really should get going. Sorry about the mess, really. Keep a receipt and I’ll pay for what I broke.’
‘Sure, sure. Fine. Don’t worry about it, honestly. See you tomorrow.’
‘See you.’ Katie turned and left, far more careful than when she had entered.
Carrie turned to watch, eyes following her down the street as far as she could. Luckily, Katie had driven here and had parked close by. At least, she unlocked a nearby car and deposited her bag into its passenger seat. Presumably that meant it was hers.
‘Anything else I can get you?’ the shopkeeper asked.
Carrie had to swallow her frustration at having her thoughts interrupted again. ‘No. No, that’s fine, thanks. Just, uh, hold old it for two mins will you? I need to… be right back.’
Before the other woman could reply, Carrie was out the door and into the stiflingly warm street. She made for Katie’s car in a half-run, half-walk, trying to get there quickly without looking like she was trying to get there quickly.
She needn’t have rushed, though.
Bending at the waist, she peered in through the passenger door and saw Katie in the middle of dumping a jar of jam into her jeans. Carrie gasped and was immediately grateful for the glass between her and Katie meaning it went unheard. She did feel guilty for peering in, yet she couldn’t look away. She simply couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Someone was getting messy on purpose, and it was someone she knew.
She continued to watch as Katie re-buttoned her jeans, shifting in her seat with none of the rigidity she would have expected. Indeed, Katie seemed to be relishing the sticky feeling, wriggling in her seat. As far as Carrie could tell, Katie was deliberately shifting the jam around, squelching it between her thighs and under her buttocks. After a moment of this, Katie put a hand to her crotch and then continued, presumably using her hand to smear the stickiness around her knickers.
And then she looked up and saw Carrie watching.
Both women almost had a heart attack. Carrie’s first instinct was to play it cool and act as though she’d seen nothing. Maybe she could pass it off as needing to speak again.
The look in Katie’s eyes made that seem unlikely to pass muster. There was a mixture of guilt, frustration and lust there. It was an unusual combination, but unmistakable too.
‘Get in,’ Katie mouthed. Even with the window closed, Carrie got the message clearly. Less clear was why she obeyed it.
Carrie opened the door, clambered inside and sat down in a series of quick movements. She closed the door and sat in heavy, awkward silence for a moment.
‘How much did you see?’ Katie asked at last.
‘Oh, nothing, I, uh –‘
‘No, really. It’s a bit late for that.’
‘I saw you dumping jam in, uh, in there,’ Carrie nodded in the direction of Katie’s midriff. ‘And then I saw you wriggling, I guess.’
Katie laughed. Carrie joined in. The tension broke instantly, and Carrie felt a sense of relief. It was as though she’d been keeping a dirty secret, only to find out the person she’d been keeping it from knew all along.
‘Well, I might as well fill you in now, I guess. On one condition.’
‘What is it?’ Carrie asked warily, half-expecting Katie to suggest some kind of jam-splattered version of a blood pact. To her surprise, the prospect didn’t totally appal her.
‘I’ll tell you everything, Literally everything about what I was doing, as much as you want to know. But you can’t tell anyone else. Deal?’
If Carrie had been asked a few moments ago, she would have been unsure if she even wanted to know at all. Now, though, she was enthralled and possibly a little excited. ‘Deal,’ she said plainly, underlining it with a nod.
Katie breathed out through puckered lips, blowing out her cheeks. ‘Alright. Well, I said I’ll tell you everything, but I’m not sure where to start.’
Carrie felt as if she should say something, but what? ‘No rush.’
‘Well, it was exactly what it looked like. I dumped the jam in my knickers, then I wriggled around. That’s not all, though.’
‘I guessed that much.’
‘No, I mean, that’s not all that’s in there.’
‘Oh,’ Carrie said, extending the vowel sound as realisation dawned. ‘So your back.’
Katie laughed. ‘Right. Yeah, it’s fine, thanks for asking. This, the jam, was part two of an intricate dare. Part one was to fill the back of my knickers with custard and then complete the rest.’
Carrie found her eyes drifting towards the seat of Katie’s chair, as if she could see the custard with X-Ray vision. ‘So you’re coated in stuff down there.’
‘Yep,’ Katie answered, torn between an indulgent smirk and a nervous grin. Carrie couldn’t blame her. She had felt similarly not long ago.
‘So you coated your bum in custard, came to the shop, filled the front with jam,’ Carrie said. ‘That gives me at least as many questions as answers.’
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