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Chapter 3 - Christmas
Margery's age is obscure; she's maybe twenty years older than Bianca who's almost twenty-two. She has a somewhat angular face with a long straight nose and a good figure. She looks fit and is always impeccably groomed, with lustrous dark, shoulder straight hair cut off in line with her collar bone. She has a preference for scarlet lipstick and coal-black suits over thin silk blouses and silk camisoles under which she seldom wears a brassiere. Men obviously find her attractive.
This is Bianca's first real job after university and although she's not formally Bianca's supervisor Margery has been 'showing her the ropes'; taking the new girl, Bianca, under her wing.
Margery's Curriculum Vitae says that she's a top representative in Information Technology Marketing, having represented some of the biggest names in the industry. And that she has both private and government experience. All certainly true, she's well known 'around the traps' with a reputation as someone who shouldn't be crossed.
Bianca has already been warned against Margery twice: once by women who followed her into the toilet and spoke in an urgent whisper and then by a man from another Division, who came and sat next to her in the coffee shop and acted like a secret agent from an old movie.
After that, Bianca decided to ask around a little. Several people were reluctant to talk about Margery, one of whom dismissed her as 'that witch'. Others spoke of her abilities in glowing terms. It does seem that some of the detail in Margery's resume may be stretching the truth a little. Is she really a Grad? Can she write code? How well can she read or write without her VPA?
Bianca was told that if you tried to test Margery on any of these points she would go on the attack, questioning the interrogator's right or she'd flee, having something urgent to attend to immediately. Bianca has decided that Margery is a self-made success who has worked her way into the world of Grads and Busies by unusual means and has consequently left a few enemies along the way.
Nevertheless Margery is certainly a driving force in getting these things done. People will put themselves out for her. And in Margery's world, having someone to do something is the same as doing it one's self. It's not as if code writing or designing something is like painting a picture or writing poetry. Bianca's reserving judgement on all that. Margery has been nothing but helpful and charming to her.
This morning she's been advising Bianca on 'power dressing' and suggested that they go to Bergeroff Goodman during their lunch break to get Bianca something more appropriate to wear to the office.
While Bianca was away Margery amused herself by trying on French knickers of the style she likes to wear, loose around the crotch with wide floppy legs. The silk ones were all so nice that she ended up taking several pairs. Her VPA, Circe, was left to sort out the necessary credit transfer with the store. This would take several microseconds as is obviously the case with any store that Margery takes goods from. It occurred to Margery that at one time she might have had to do this negotiation herself and carry tokens or paper promissory notes. Circe, keeps a close watch on her credit as Margery likes expensive stores and is inclined to take away pretty things that take her fancy that may exceed her means.
When Bianca reappeared, excited to recount her adventure at Jackie O's she was jealous. She would love to have seen the society woman's apartment and picked up some clues about how the upper crust lived.
Then the girl had told her about her silly air-toilet idea and she'd automatically poo-pooed it. But Bianca had defended her idea, saying that the perfect App was one that married a need, to a way of satisfying that need; when neither party was previously aware of, or had the means of, satisfying the other.
She viewed Bianca as her disciple so any idea that Bianca had was obviously inspired by her mentor. She started to warm to her idea. So she relented and said that if Bianca really wanted to waste her time on it she should not try to code it herself but hire a professional developer.
Bianca foolishly claimed that she was perfectly capable of writing the code - as if she could. But the truth had come out when Bianca kept rejecting the expensive suits at Bergeroff Goodman. It was obvious that she hadn't the credit to hire someone who could do it properly.
"You don't have to pay for someone just to write code," Margery had insisted. "Who's the best of those strange developer creatures on Level 20?"
Bianca said that was easy: "Mohandas is the best developer and a nice young man. He has a very interesting background." She started to explain that he'd been named after Ghandi, a man who'd been revered in India before the Great Famine. And this Mohandas was said to be an Indian Prince, the son of a maharaja from the old area of Rajasthan; and in what used to be India, where maharajas are gods to their remaining subjects.
"Let's go to their Christmas party on Wednesday and I'll show you how to have your little Prince do it free," Margery interrupted.
Bianca was equivocal. She would prefer to try and write it herself because anything Mohandas wrote would legally belong to the company, whereas she wasn't employed as a developer.
But now Margery was determined to teach her something. Like that 'assertive' woman in Devil Wears Prada, she was grooming Bianca to follow in her footsteps. Margery apparently needed a younger woman to look up to her to admire her evident superiority and to take her lead.
The moment Bianca arrived in the enterprise to start her first real job two months ago Margery had introduced herself and began trying to mentor her: telling her that she needed to be more assertive; to always pretend to know more than you do; to smile knowingly and flounce away rather than give an answer you are unsure of; to power dress - in up-market designer brands; never to admit to getting a bargain when it comes to clothes or accessories; and so on.
"It's OK to use subtle 'enhancement' surgery like nose or boob jobs," she'd told her. "It's still 'sort of legal' provided it won't extend your life. Do you like mine? No bra." She took off her jacket and twirled. Bianca could see the impression of her nipples through the fine silk of her creamy camisole. "Bogans do it all the time. None of them look vaguely like they did a year ago. I know a clinic. But never make a body modification that makes you look submissive, like wearing a nose ring; or having a tattoo of a man's name. Men need to be kept in awe of you."
Now she was going to the Developers' party, whether Bianca was coming or not. So Bianca decided to go too, just to keep an eye on her.
"Watch this carefully," Margery told Bianca, as she shed her knickers in the Ladies toilet before the party. "This is why you should always wear stockings and a garter belt under a skirt - never wear pantyhose. And I always call it my garter belt never suspenders. That sounds too cheap. My underwear is always luxurious."
"Now, which one is he?"
Minutes later she'd manoeuvred Mohandas to a suitable table and was staring intensely into his eyes asking about coding. Step two was to take his hand in an expression of admiration of his skills and a sincere desire for his friendship. Step three to place his hand on her knee under the table. At that point he would either pull away or go with the flow, depending on his sexual preference and other entanglements. If he pulled away she'd simply move on through the ranks of developers until she found one who'd play along.
But Mohandas couldn't believe his luck. Once she'd got him over that hurdle it was time for the gentle wrist pull, past the top of her stocking, all the way up.
In her mind Margery had passed the third verse of the old song: 'Now it's number three and his hand is on my knee… Roll me over in the clover, lay me down and do it again….' Number four would inevitably follow.
In her heels Margery was nearly a head taller than Mohandas. As they stood Margery demurely straightened her little black party dress that she'd worn today for the occasion. She smoothed it down the front suggestively, smiling across the room, artificially, for Bianca's benefit and saw Bianca's mouth drop open in amazement as she and Mohandas left the party together.
"This is her first real demonstration of the craft of seduction," Margery thought with pleasure. "She'll give up those dreadful pantyhose for stockings and a sexy garter belt from this evening on."
The next day over lunch, Bianca asked what had happened after they left.
"Are you wearing pantyhose? I won't tell you if you're wearing pantyhose" Margery said.
"No," said Bianca.
This was not because she was following Margery's lead, as Margery thought, but because she'd never liked them. Her legs, that were not visible to Margery, were bare.
"I don't believe you."
"Well, I'm not showing you here."
"Then slip down your panties and pass them to me."
"No! Don't be ridiculous."
"Do you want to know or not?"
But Bianca was desperate to know what this woman had done to Mohandas. She'd pointed him out to Margery and knew that she had no real interest in him, except as a conquest and a free code writer. So after an awkward silent standoff between them she made a quick trip to the 'Ladies' and returned with her panties, tied into a compact knot, and handed them over. Margery was triumphant.
"Now that's better isn't it? A bit of air down there is liberating. You can have them back later - if you still need them."
"OK you've got what you wanted so now tell me what happened," Bianca demanded crossly.
"I took him to The Plaza Grand and made him pay for a suite."
"Is that what I gave you my pants to hear? Then what happened?"
"Then I taught him some things he won't find in the Kama Sutra," she boasted.
Of course she'd being dying to tell someone all morning and who better than Bianca who obviously liked the fellow. Getting Bianca to shed her knickers to hear what she'd done with him was icing on the cake.
"Where is he today? He didn't come in," Bianca asked.
"I'm afraid he won't be in for some time. I haven't finished teaching him some new tricks and I've got a little coding job for him."
Margery said this as if this was a business deal but smiled to herself at the look of annoyance on Bianca's face. This was delicious, she was obviously fond of him.
"What sort of coding job?" Bianca asked. She didn't want to know what tricks Margery was teaching him. "Is he still at The Plaza Grand?”
"No he's at home 'sick'. I've got an idea for an App that I want him to work on. After that you can have him if you change your mind about needing a developer," she said.
On hearing that he'd gone home Bianca was pleased. Margery had come to work so it couldn't be too bad.
"Margery, is he really sick? I hope you're not employing him to write code. He's the firm's best developer and he shouldn't work for someone else in breach of his contract. He could get the sack."
"I'm not paying him so he's not legally working for me. And he's terribly sick. Last night he came down with something very infectious," laughed Margery in a most suggestive way.
Bianca sat back. The thought of Mohandas falling for this older woman who had somehow bewitched him last night was somehow bizarre. How had she seduced him so fast?
"Why did he leave so suddenly with you like that?" she asked.
Margery was delighted. She'd been dying to tell Bianca her secret and maybe teach her to follow in her footsteps. She watched Bianca carefully. Yes! The girl was jealous. This was going to be a lot of fun.
"I gave him a Christmas present."
Bianca had no idea what she was talking about. Had she given him her knickers? And now she had hers. Could she hold them for ransom? 'If you want your panties back do this.' Well they were cotton and quite disposable, not like the silk French knickers she wears. "She can keep them for all I care," she thought.
"Did you lure him to The Plaza Grand with your knickers?" she asked.
"No, of course not. It takes a lot of training before a man is that Pavlovian. You know, like the dogs," she added in case Bianca had not heard of Pavlovian conditioning. "Would you like me to teach Mohandas to sniff after you like a bloodhound?"
Bianca reacted just as she'd hoped. It was as if she'd hit her with a baseball bat. The battle of the knickers was already paying dividends. It was clear that she was now very jealous and worried about what use she might make of her little prize.
Before Bianca could recover she went on: "Oh dear! I do have your knickers in a knot don't I? A Christmas present is a St Knicker-less surprise."
The woman was being deliberately lewd and in some way it seemed worse coming from the mouth of this older, apparently sophisticated, woman who otherwise might be some child's wealthy mother, sitting in this restaurant in her fine clothes and jewellery in a fog of expensive perfume. It was the sort of conversation Bianca might expect from a contemporary who was trying to shock her. Bianca refused to react.
But then Margery surprised her by producing a beautifully wrapped parcel from Bergeroff Goodman. "Merry Christmas," she said.
Bianca was amazed.
"Go on, unwrap it," Margery insisted.
Before she had removed the ribbon from the box Bianca had realised what it was. When she unfolded the tissue paper and saw the beautiful cream silk her heart leapt. They were not what she would normally have chosen for herself but they were so lovely that she declared that she was going to put them immediately. She slipped out of her shoes, put her feet through them and pulled them up over her knees. Then she hitched them right up under her dress, right there in the restaurant before realising that she needed to make another trip to the ladies'.
They felt wonderful against her skin and after nothing she realised why the French liked the halfway-house of everything loose and breezy down there.
"Oh thank you Margery," she said as she returned and was genuinely grateful. She kissed her. She felt as if she was in Margery's debt. Not just because of these very expensive knickers but because she had misunderstood Margery's motives in taking her panties.
"You're welcome," said Margery, "I'll make a real women of you yet."
Lunch was over.
The restaurant would make the necessary credit adjustments to their accounts in this cashless economy. They each had committed to pay by the simple act of choosing this place and selecting from the menu.