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Authors: Louise Bagshawe

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BOOK: A Kept Woman
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How dare he? she asked herself.

It was the fiftieth time she had asked herself that question that morning, and it was only 7 a.m. The maid was silently spooning fresh summer-fruit compote into Diana’s crystal dish, and refilling her glass with pomegranate juice and champagne, so she smiled sweetly and pretended to be interested in Liz Post’s column in the paper as she played with the ivory spoon in her hazelnut vanilla coffee. It didn’t do to show emotion in front of the help, but inside she was fuming. Diana’s gaze flickered from the newsprint she wasn’t reading to the springtime beauty of the Park that she wasn’t taking in.

It had to be that strumpet who had embarrassed her

last night. Turning up in basic black was bad enough, but in a dress so tight and tarty it belonged on a high-school kid with a bad reputation? Diana had been so sweet to her, too, sitting her next to Ernie - humph - what a rich joke - and asking her questions about her boring work she seemed so obsessed with. Why, she’d even tried to give Mira some invaluable beauty advice, recommending Clarins, Aveda and Bobbi Brown, to steer her off those fire-engine reds and overly plucked brows. So flashy. So eighties. And it would seem her husband - her newly wed husband - the husband of Diana Foxton, the toast of Manhattan - preferred that two-buck tramp!

What a humiliation! Could there be anything worse

than this? Diana wondered, absent-mindedly sipping the

 

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mimosa she’d felt she needed for strength this morning. Lying there, listening to him make a secret date with some slut?

Diana scrutinised her reflection in the glass top of her terrace breakfast table. It was puzzling. Was there anything wrong with the face that stared back at her, the smooth skin, the almond-shaped blue eyes, the pretty little nose … maybe the nose … maybe it could be a little more chiselled, a bit more modelly, but she’d always assumed men liked the slight imperfections in the face that made her, well, her. Were her eyebrows not arched properly, were her teeth not bleached as bright as they could be? She wouldn’t second-guess her perfect sense of style, but what, for goodness’ sake, could make Ernie prefer the tramp from last night to herself?

They’d been married for six blissful months now. Yes, Diana irtsisted to herself, they had been six blissful months. The wonderful parties, the celebratory dinners over Ernie’s latest business triumphs, her sensational redecoration of the apartment, the terrace garden, really, everything. Except possibly the sex. Sex was a frightful bore, when it came right down to it, but Diana didn’t let that raze her. Basically, she knew she was simply more worldly wise than most of her fellow females, or maybe more honest.

Women hated sex.

They had hated it since time immemorial. The clever woman simply made allowances for the needs of men, let them do whatever they wanted and tried not to protest too much. After all, who really enjoced sex? Men. Men had orgasms at the drop of a hat. All a man needed to arouse him was friction.

Diana sipped her drink, watching the morning light play on the fluted stem of the glass, allowing the bubbles to fizzle against her tongue. They were using Cristal, which was the current in vogue choice of the Yank set;

 

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but which she thought was inferior, all things considered, to Dom Perignon or Taittinger.

Yes, it was a pity that women were built so differently. She had never met a woman who reached climax with her man in bed, although the magazines were full of articles about it, which were pie-in-the-sky lies as far as Diana was concerned. What women did in bed was sigh, cry and lie, and watch the minutes - or seconds, in Ernie’s case - go by. Sex, after all, was what men liked, and it was a price a girl knew she had to pay.

Diana detested sex. It was like a bad boyfriend - all promises and then all let downs. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, you would get a bit excited, get that nervous, squirmy, edgy feeling in your belly, get slightly damp in that secret place between the legs. And then you went to bed with him, and you wound up frustrated and angry, lying there trying to get his big heap of a sweating, smelling body off your body and your aching nipples.

It had been that way with Jack, the naval second lieutenant who had been her first boyfriend. At least Ernie didn’t frustrate her, because he never even aroused her in the first place.

The best part of married sex, Diana thought viciously, was when Ernie rolled over and went to sleep. Of course, it only lasted a few seconds. Then he started snoring.

But could Ernie get better from somebody else? He was nothing himself in the sexual stakes. Huffing and puffing and grunting and making dea.th’s-head rictus faces. Maybe the other girl was a better faker than she was. Frankly, Diana found it just silly to lie there moaning like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. If she started all that, she’d just burst into giggles, which would make Ernie’s unimpressive penis do a nice impression of a soft, floppy worm.

Diana tried to imagine Ernie with another woman. Was she jealous? Not exactly, she decided. She was. angry


 

though, very, very angry, she had never complained about his aggravating sexual antics. She had been an ideal hostess. And this, this was how he repaid her - his new bride!

‘Consuela,’ she said.

‘Yes, Senora Foxton.’

‘Could you bring me my cellular phone and my diary?’

‘Right away, Senora Foxton,’ her maid said, hurrying off.

Diana clenched her fist and angrily dive bombed her spoon into her compote in childish resentment. Ernie might think he could get away with treating her like a silly little fool, but he was sorely” mistaken. She had friends here, too. And she was going to hold a council of war. No way was she losing her man to some two-bit little American whore.

 

‘Darling, it’s so good to see you.’

Natasha Zuckerman kissed the air on both sides of Diana’s cheeks. ‘Not a moment too soon, either. Felicity and Jodie were wondering what happened.’

‘Gridlock,’ Diana murmured, ‘so sorry to have kept you.’

She had summoned the three ladies best suited to give her advice, Diana congratulated herself. Natasha and Jodie were happily married to big businessmen, and Felicity was divorced - something she could help Diana prevent. She’d thought about asking Claire Bryant, too, but had decided against it. Claire had a bit of a feminist streak, the side of her that made Diana uncomfortable. She tossed her head arrogantly. Claire Bryant would just tell her to confront him, get a divorce. Diana didn’t want to hear that.

These girls would tell her what she did want to hear. “Not at all,’ Natasha purred. ‘It’s murder trying to get’

 

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down to the Village at lunchtimes. But my spirits are restored because you chose Mono.’

‘The food’s terrific and it’s all herbs, hardly any fat.’ Privately Diana thought her friend could use a little meat on her skinny hips, but she didn’t want to belabour the point. It was much easier to get the girls out at the last minute if you could find somewhere that had decent low-fat cooking, even though as they only ever had salads and breadsticks it really didn’t matter where she chose.

‘Wonderful to see you all.’ Kisses were exchanged, and Diana saw everybody was sipping Perrier water. To hell with it, she thought, ordering up a nice glass of Chardonnay big enough to bathe in.

‘Sweetie.’ Jodie looked very concerned. ‘All the urgency, and the last minute - what on erth has happened?’

‘Something awful.’ The wine came, and Diana took a

big gulp. ‘I need your advice.’

‘Your personal organiser crashed.’

‘Your maid has been taping your cellular calls.’

“‘The IRS want to investigate Ernie,’ Jodie suggested excitedly.

‘No. It’s much worse than that.’

‘What could be worse than the IRS?’ Felicity said, horrified.

‘I think Ernie’s having an affair,’ Diana muttered.

There was a shocked silence. And then, to her amazement, all three of her girlfriends started to laugh.

‘What’s so funny? I don’t get it,’ Diana said, rather offended.

‘Oh, don’t look like that, darling,’ Jodie said, patting

her hand reassuringly. ‘It’s nothing, really, except we assumed you knew. Of course Ernie’s having an affair. Everybody knows that.’

‘Well, I’m shocked. I think it’s just awful of Ernie to be sneaking around behind your back,’ Jodie sniffed. ‘I

 

rather assumed you knew as well. People thought the two of you had an open marriage.’

‘An open marriage!’ Diana said, flushing bright pink with shame. ‘Of course not!’

‘Well.’ Felicity put her water glass down with a determined thud. ‘Seeing as you don’t know, Di, somebody’s got to tell you. It’s not just an affair. It’s affairs. Ernie’s a womaniser. Everybody knew about it.’

‘Everybody except me,’ Diana said.

 

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Chapter 9

Diana smiled, chewed her food precisely, pushed her salad around her plate, and tried hard not to display too much emotion in front of her friends.

‘But, angel, it’s Mira Chen at his office. They are always working late. My maid’s husband knows one of the cleaners over at Blakely’s,’ Natasha told her.

Felicity made an angry stabbing motion in the ir with her fork. ‘And before Mira wasn’t it Henrietta Johnson?’

‘Maurice Johnson’s wife?’ Diana asked, amazed. The Johnsons were bankers and had moved to Miami last month. Luckily for them, she thought. To think she’d p!ayed tennis with Henrietta in that tournament on Long Island. And all the time she really wanted a set of mixed doubles with Ernie!

‘But of course. She had nothing to lose. Very discreet, but I knew the signs,’ Natty added.

‘We thought you did, of course, or we’d have said something.’

Diana pushed her hair out of her eyes. ‘If I’d known, wouldn’t I have done something?’

‘I don’t see why,’ Jodie said judiciously. ‘So many hubbies do it. It leaves us girls free to make our own arrangements.’

They seemed so calm and collected. Diana didn’t want to seem overly naive. Maybe this was just the way of it in America.

‘Isn’t that awfully cynical?’ she said.

‘I prefer to say practical,’ Natasha pronounced.

 

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Diana took another sip of her wine. ‘Do your husbands stray like that?’

Shocked heads shook. ‘Of course not, darling,’ Jodi’e said, with a touch of smugness. ‘He’s got no reason to.’

Diana blushed; she suddenly felt her inexperience, and her foreignness, and, strangely for her, an unpleasant little wash of failure. She was furious at Ernie for exposing her to pity. Thank goodness I’ve got my girlfriends, she told herself. People I can rely on.

‘Maybe you spend too much time at home, sweetie.’ Natasha signalled for the check. ‘No, no, let me, I insist, you’re having an awful day. Too bad to find this out. And so long after it started, too.’

‘We’re always here for you,’ Felicity said softly, giving Diana a warm hug.

‘Call if you need anything,’ Jodie pressed. ‘Anything at all.’ And with a lot of air kisses and warm pressings on her arm, they suddenly melted into the sunshine.

Diana stood for a moment watching her friends leave. She felt such a fool. Grateful to them, of course, but what a silly girl she’d been. Maybe she had been wilfully blind to it. Ignored all the girls that liked to drape themselves over Ernie’s arm at her parties. He’d been very receptive, but she’d thought it was just flirting. After all, in England, what mistress would be so crass as to hit on a husband at a dinner party in his own home, in the presence of his wife?

She absently retrieved her coat and overtipped the coat-check girl.

‘Shall I get you a cab, ma’am?’ the maitre d’ was asking.

She glanced at him, not noticing the glitter in his eyes as they swept her form in the silk shantung dress that was tight in all the right places.

‘No thanks. I’ll walk.’ She smiled. No need to advertise

 

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to the whole world how she was feeling. Diana went through the door another man held open for her, hardly even looking where she was going. She needed to walk round and gather her thoughts.

Tears prickled in her eyes. Obviously she was not the prize she had imagined. How it hurt to hear Jodie saying of course her man would not stray, he had no need to. But Ernie had felt that need.

What on earth could Mira Chen and Henrietta Johnson and all those other tarts, Diana thought viciously, do for her husband that she couldn’t? A sullen fury took hold of her as she marched along the street. Maybe it was the fact that she was too easy to please, always there. Surely Ernie had lied to her when he said that he liked the idea of a traditional wife. Talking to Jodie and the others, a traditional wife seemed to be one who let her husband screw around without making a fuss, while she did the same - except that their husbands were somehow exempt from this rule.

In the future she thought she would confide more in Felicity. Felicity had been through a divorce and was single now, she couldn’t triumph over Diana. Oh stop, she chided herself, they were being supportive, trying to help you. She wanted to believe that, so she told herself it was true.

Well, I’ve done my wifely duty, Diana thought, getting angrier by the second. I’ve thrown his parties and entertained his contacts, I’ve dressed perfectly, I decorated his house, hired his servants and fucked him whenever he asked for it. And I refuse to lose him to some trampy little slut. I don’t see why I should sit at home while he fakes his meetings like I fake my orgasms. I can work too, if that’s what he likes. I can get a job. I could—

Here her imagination failed her, and she stamped her foot in the street. A few Japanese tourists gigg!ed and

 

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stared like she was a mad bag lady. Diana pouted and hailed a cab.

 

‘No, of course I don’t think you’re crazy,’ Milla soothed

her.

The long-distance line was crackly, and there was the sound of screaming children in the background, and a hissing noise like something was cooking on the stove. What right, Diana thought, did Milla have to sound so happy and contented all the time? She weighed a good ten pounds too much, she wasn’t even married to somebody rich and she worked like a slave.

BOOK: A Kept Woman
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ads

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