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All I want for Christmas...isn't Zoom

Chapter Text

“Why exactly are we doing this?” Serena asks as she looks up at Jason from her laptop, her face full of exasperation. Bernie, behind her own laptop at the other end of the table, sensibly keeps her head down and lets Jason answer his Aunt.

“Because I need to teach you how to Zoom.” Jason states calmly,

“But why? Why do we need to Zoom? Bernie’s here – she lives with me. And you, Greta and Guinevere only live round the corner. Who exactly am I going to Zoom with.”

“Aunty Serena, I told you yesterday. I won’t be able to give you your proper Christmas present until you can use Zoom. It won’t work otherwise.” The hint of annoyance in his voice reminds Bernie very much of Serena, but she decides it’s not the right time to mention it.

The previous day had been Christmas day and both Bernie and Serena had been rather bemused that the envelope Guinevere had given them as their gift had contained a home made voucher for a lesson in how to work Zoom. It had, in fairness, been beautifully decorated by the tot, but that didn’t really reduce their puzzlement in the choice of present. All Jason had told them was that they couldn’t have their proper present until they’d mastered at least the basics of online meetings. He had, however, announced that he knew neither of them were working the following day and that he would be round at 9am to induct them into the intricacies of Zoom. Both Bernie and Serena knew instantly that it spelled an end to their plans for a lazy Boxing day morning in bed. Jason would be insistent that the Zoom lesson was far more important than a lay in they could have any time they wanted. He wasn’t wrong, logically speaking – and neither of his Aunts had the heart to try and dissuade him from his obviously clearly thought out plans. If they were honest they were both rather intrigued as to what gift Jason had got them that could possibly require them to learn to Zoom

And that was the sequence of events which had led to both Bernie and Serena being up, showered, dressed and sat at opposite ends of the kitchen table so early on Boxing day morning, whilst Jason installed Zoom on their laptops and attempted to initiate them into its’ mysteries. It hadn’t been plain sailing.

Jason was a bit of a computer whizz and the whole Zoom concept came very simply and easily to him. The same could not be said of his two Aunts. It was true that Serena did very much like a gadget, but she was very much focused on their practical application rather than how they worked. Give her the latest, cutting edge, bit of surgical kit and Serena would be all over it – and why wouldn’t she be when she could see the benefits for her patients right in front of her? Who wouldn’t want less invasive surgeries, shorter recovery times and the reduction in complications that the latest tech could bring?

Bernie was more practical. She could diagnose a fault with a car engine if she could physically see it, could hear it whining and growling, could see how one piece fit with another – how it connected, how it worked. Her standard tool kit for trauma surgery contained bolts, screws and a drill. She knew her way around a tank, but there was no point in asking her to work out why a TV box wouldn’t record. Whilst neither of them were unintelligent, or slow to grasp a new concept, it was clear that Jason was going to have quite the task on his hands showing them how it all worked.

When he’d arrived right on the dot of 9am it had been an easy enough decision for Jason to install the Zoom app on both their laptops whilst his Aunts made coffee. Jason was more than happy to have both his Aunts fully caffeinated. He knew what Serena was like when she didn’t have enough coffee and he wasn’t sure he wanted to see Bernie when her coffee levels ran low. Things had at least started well. The first note of disharmony had come when Bernie and Serena tried to set their passwords. Jason felt that the passwords they had suggested were too easy to guess and that they would make their accounts vulnerable to hackers. He’d suggested that the best thing to do was to use a randomly generated password – a string of digits and numbers that would be almost uncrackable.

“It would be pretty unrememberable too Jason.” Serena had pointed out

“That’s true.” Jason had conceded “At your age memory loss can become an issue.” Serena had forced a smile at this for Jason, but shot a glare at Bernie as she tried (and failed) to hide a smirk behind her computer screen.

They finally managed to agree on passwords that Jason deemed secure enough and Bernie and Serena were confident they could remember. Once they were set up and logged on Jason sent them a link to a meeting he’d set up. Both Bernie and Serena managed to log on first time.

“It’s not overly complicated.” Jason had told them from his laptop set up at the table between his two Aunts as he admitted them to the meeting without incident. Both Bernie and Serena had been pleasantly surprised to see that Greta has also joined the meeting, a very sleepy Guinevere in her lap. The tot had managed a brief wave at her Great Aunts before curling up against her mother and shutting her eyes.

Things went a little downhill after that. Bernie had got a little too confident and tried to change her background. It hadn’t quite worked as she’d expected – the effect was like something out of a 80’s pop video – flashing lights, wobbly picture – the works. It didn’t take Jason long to fix the issue, but in the few moments it took him Serena had accidentally muted herself. In her defence she hadn’t realised that she’d done it because she could still hear Jason and Bernie talking and she thought Greta had gone quiet to avoid waking the sleeping Guinevere on her lap. It had, at least, been a straight forward fix, which hadn’t been the case when Jason handed control of the meeting to Serena. Almost at once she’d managed to switch Greta’s video feed off and throw her out of the meeting trying to turn it back on. She hadn’t meant to, she’d protested. She’d meant to switch Bernie’s feed off. It hadn’t been her fault the video links changed order on her screen just as she’d clicked on what she thought was Bernie’s video feed button to disconnect it. Jason, starting to loose his patience, and getting just a little rattled by this point, readmits Greta to the meeting and tells Serena to click the icon again to bring Greta’s video feed back on line. Serena does as she’s bid without further comment but it’s clear that she too is running low on patience. It’s at this point that she asked Jason why they needed to be able to Zoom.

“Don’t we know enough to use Zoom yet?” Serena asks, eyeing the empty cafetière in the hopes that it might somehow have miraculously refilled itself. Jason considers her point carefully for a moment or two.

“I suppose that you are managing most of it OK and we don’t have that much time left. I should probably tell you what your present is.”

“You probably should.” Bernie notes, looking at her partners face and realising it’s not a good idea to push Serena any further.

“We’re giving you both a night in a spa.”

“Well, that’s lovely, really it is. It’s very kind of you, but you really shouldn’t have spent that much money on us.” Serena tells him, touched at the gesture, but concerned that the gift is rather expensive for a young couple with a baby.

“It didn’t cost us anything.” Jason tells them. Serena looks puzzled.

“Then how…?” she starts….

“Jason,” Bernie interrupts, “Would you mind telling us about how you managed to get us this lovely gift without it costing you anything?”

“It’s rude to ask how much a present costs.” Jason says firmly, looking rather perplexed.

“Well, yes, usually it is.” Bernie concedes “But I think that your Aunt was a little worried that you might have spent more than you should have on us, and now we’re both concerned about how you got this wonderful present for us without spending anything. It would make us both feel better if you could explain and put our minds at rest, if that would be ok with you.”

Jason weighs up the request for a moment and then says

“Greta did some work on the website for the new spa that just opened just outside Holby. As a thank you for doing such a good job so quickly they gave her a free nights stay for two, and four free treatments to share. She didn’t want to go, and neither did I. We don’t like that kind of thing. We thought that Aunty Serena might like it and might like to take you with her. They said it would be ok if we gave it to you. Did we do anything wrong? Is it bad that we didn’t spend any money?” There’s a note of concern entering Jason’s voice, as if he’s started to get really worried about what he’s done.

“No, no, of course not!” Bernie says swifty and firmly “It was very kind of you to think of us. It’s a very kind and generous gift, isn’t it Serena.”

“Very kind.” Serena agrees rapidly, touched by Jason’s generosity and thoughtfulness. Jason’s face, which had fallen into a frown, rapidly brightens at the approval.

“Good, I think you’ll enjoy it. You’d better go and pack though.”

“Pack?” Serena repeats, confused.

“Yes, you can check in any time after 2pm, but we booked your first treatment for 3.30pm, so you don’t want to be late.

“Today?” Bernie asks, sensing that they could be about to hit a snag.

“The voucher is for tonight, yes.”

“Oh love!” Serena chimes in, “I’m really sorry but Bernie and I are working the night shift today, we can’t possibly go.”

“You’re not working today.” Jason tells them matter a factly.

“I did the rotas myself and I’ve afraid we are both very much working tonight.”

“You were working tonight, but you’re not any more. I spoke to Mr Hansen. He thought that the two of you going to a spa was a very good idea.”

“Did he now?” Serena mutters under her breath, making a mental note to have words with Henrik when she next sees him. Jason continues speaking, seemingly not having noticed Serena’s interruption.

“He said that Mr Griffin owed you a favour and that he could repay you by covering your shift Aunty Serena. He and Mr Levy are working tonight as well and they’ll keep an eye on AAU and pitch in if Mr Griffin neds any help. There’s no reason you can’t go.

“You seem to have thought this through very carefully.” Bernie says diplomatically

“There would have been no point giving you the present if you couldn’t have gone, would there?” Jason points out, patiently stating what to him is the obvious in the face of his Aunts’ lack of logic.

“Very true.” Serena notes, “but I still don’t understand one thing. Why do we have to be able to Zoom to go to a Spa?”

“Because it’s Saturday.” Serena and Bernie look at Jason slightly bemused. “You’re not very fast on the uptake, are you?” Jason scolds them “You read Guinevere her bedtime story on a Saturday. Now you know how to use it you can read it to her over Zoom. That way her schedule won’t be too interrupted.”

“You really have thought of everything, haven’t you?” Serena tells Jason fondly as she realises how thorough he’s been in his planning.

“Well I didn’t pack your bags for you, or make you a list. Great said you’d want to decide what to take for yourselves. Is that right?”

“Greta is quite right.” Bernie reassures him. “It’d be much better if we packed for ourselves.”

“Then you’d better have this.” Jason pulls an envelope out of the pocket of the jacket he’d hung on the back of the chair he’d been sitting on during their lesson. He hands it to Serena who opens it to find a printed confirmation of their booking, details of the treatments they’d been booked in for as well as a map to the Spa, details of the facilities and their room along with photos.

“Well it looks lovely.” Serena tells him as he plants a kiss on his cheek and hands the paperwork to Bernie to look at. Jason looks at his watch.

“I should go home. It’s almost 11am. Greta and I weren’t expecting the lesson to take so long, and you have to pack.”

“Indeed we do.” Serena concurs as she ushers Jason towards the front door. “We don’t want to keep Greta waiting. Thank you so much for such a kind gift.”

“Don’t forget to pack a book to read to Guinevere.” Jason calls back to both his Aunts as they wave him goodbye from the door. They both grin back at him as he walks through the gate and onto the street, their grins only fading when they’ve closed the front door and they’re safely alone.

“A Spa eh?” Bernie says.

“Ever been to one before?”

“No. Not really my kind of thing. You?”
“Almost. Never quite managed it though. Something more important almost always came up. It’s never been exactly on top of my to do list, to be honest.”

“New experience for both of us then.” Bernie says in an attempt to gee Serena along a bit. She’s looking decidedly unsure. “How bad could it be? I mean, it looks lovely”

“Don’t tempt fate.” Serena says, punctuating the statement with a trade marked raised eyebrow “but it does look rather picturesque. You want to come upstairs and help me work out what to pack to take to a Spa?”

Chapter Text

Serena and Bernie pull up to the Spa just after 2.30pm. The traffic in Holby had been a nightmare. A combination, they assumed, of people fleeing back home to avoid spending any more time than necessary with awful relations and those coming back from the Boxing Day sales at the huge shopping centres outside Holby (which unfortunately for Bernie and Serena were between them and the Spa). Although they’d left in good enough time to to be there by 2pm, they’d been snarled up in the traffic. They’d also taken a wrong turn or two once they’d got off the Holby ring road, but the less said about that the better. The Spa, which had by the look of it, been some kind of country house way back when, was quite the vision as they watched it loom up on them from the rather long driveway. It lost none of it’s grandeur close up.

“It looks impressive.” Bernie says to Serena, once they’d both extracted themselves from Bernie’s car.

“It does look very nice.” Serena admits.

“You don’t sound convinced.” Bernie asks, slightly concerned.

“No. I’m fine. It’s just that, well, I’m not sure this is exactly my kind of thing. It’s not like pampering myself is something I’ve had a lot of time for really. I just don’t know if I’ll be able to relax enough to enjoy it.”

“I’m not really a fan of being touched by just anyone - present company excluded – but I’ll give it my best shot for Jason.”

“Really? You’re doing this for Jason?”

“Of course. It was a really lovely gift from someone I care about. I’m sure as hell going to give enjoying it my best shot.” Serena is too touched by Bernie’s words to speak, so Bernie continues. “Well, yes, I’m doing it for Jason, but I’m also doing it for you.”

Bernie turns towards the boot and takes charge of removing their luggage. It has the added attraction of Serena not being able to see her face in the aftermath of such a rare and deep declaration. There isn’t much to take charge of, which is just as well because space is one thing that Bernie’s car doesn’t have a lot of. It’s enough to give Bernie a chance to regain her equilibrium after such an unaccustomed emotional statement though, and Serena a chance to regain the breath that had been taken away by the sentiment Bernie had expressed. When Bernie turns round, lime green suitcase in hand, it’s to see a beaming Serena holding out her arm.

“Shall we? She suggests and Bernie grins back and links her arm in her partners.

The outside of the building looks just as you’d imagine a country house to look. Set in extensive grounds, Hamilton Hall is an impressive building. It’s large, but not excessively so; built of warm cream bricks with warm red tiles on the sloping roofs and heavy wooden window frames. The entrance, tastefully signposted, is a porch jutting out from the main building. It has a heavy, solid looking wooden door, obviously very old. It looks like it might take quite a bit of effort to move it. Bernie is bracing herself to put her back into pushing it open as they walk up towards it, except she doesn’t have to. The door glides open of it’s own accord. It’s not what either of them had been expecting – but Hamilton Hall’s style, they soon realised, was very much a blend of old world charm, modern convenience and a fresh clean décor. The door makes it’s way slowly and steadily open and they get their first look into the Spa. The Reception area is a bright, clear white. The exposed beams on the walls and ceilings add a welcome touch of warmth. The room is very uncluttered. There are a few posters on the wall to the right of them, above a grey and glass table full of information and leaflets about the Spa’s facilities and the local area. To the left of them is a wooden door, similar in style to the main entrance door, but somehow it doesn’t look as heavy and it’s a much lighter shade than the dark main door. Right in front of them, against the only wall painted a colour other than white ( a deep but light pink), is a wooden reception desk, painted white but with decorative edging picked out in grey. One one side of the large desk is a generous arrangement of pink and white flowers. On the other side is a young woman in a beautician’s “uniform” of trousers and a tunic. The trousers are carefully tailored and the tunic has a high square collar, short sleeves and wraps over itself to button down on the right side. It’s a very pale shade of pink, the buttons are white and the edges are trimmed with a grey piping.

“Good afternoon. Welcome to Hamilton Hall. My name is Emma. May I check you in?” The young woman smiles at them. Her make up is immaculate, perfect even. Her hair is a riot of curls, caught back neatly in a smooth pony tail. The hand that she extends to take the envelope Bernie is holding out to her is topped with some of the most elaborately painted and most glittery nails Bernie has ever seen. The decoration doesn’t stop her from elegantly removing the sheet of paper from inside the envelope. She takes a moment to read it and says

“You’re Jason and Greta’s Aunts. Am I right?”

“Yes, we are.” Serena confirms, slightly confused.

“He and Greta made quite the impression, especially when he brought little Guinevere in to visit while Greta was working. We plaited her dolls hair together and gave her a massage.” Bernie and Serena exchange nonplussed looks.

“I’m sorry, look at me babbling on when I should be checking you in. Bear with me one moment.” Emma wakes the computer on the desk with a move of the mouse. She clicks a few times and looks up to speak to Serena and Bernie.

“That’s you all checked in. Jason gave us all your details, your car registration and all that, a couple of weeks ago, so you’re all set. You’re in the deluxe suite.”

“Suite?” Serena queries.

“That’s right. Dorothy, the owner, was very impressed with Greta and her work. She was only too happy to oblige when she asked it you two could use the stay she gave her. She put you in the suite because she wanted you to have the best.”

“Well, that’s… very nice of her.” Serena manages, not quite sure what else to say. Emma reaches below the desk and retrieves two large gift bags – pale pink and emblazoned with the grey and white Hamilton hall logo – and holds them out to the two women.

“Compliments of Hamilton Hall: a bathrobe, slippers, bath towel set and a range of exclusive toiletries and beauty products.” Bernie and Serena take a bag each, neither of them knowing quite what to make of this unexpected largess. Emma, however doesn’t skip a beat as she hands over two credit card sized bits of plastic to Bernie.

“The keys to your suite. You’re on the fourth floor. The lift is through that door on your left. All the bedrooms are in the main hall. The Spa facilities are in the out buildings. To get to them you turn right out of the lift on the ground floor and head away from Reception. You can have meals delivered room service, or you can eat in our new Conservatory Restaurant.”

“Thank you.” Bernie says, impressed and, honestly, somewhat dazed by the young woman’s efficiency. Emma, however, is checking the computer again. She clicks the mouse and the printer whirls into life.

“Jason pre-booked you some treatments. Here’s a list of what you have scheduled. In between treatments you’re welcome to explore the grounds or rest in your room. The gym, pool, sauna and hot tub are at your disposal at anytime.”

“That sounds lovely.” Serena confirms.

“There is just one problem, I’m afraid. We’ve had to move your couples massage from 3.30pm to 3pm. You should just have enough time to get to your room, change into your robes and make your way down to the massage suite. You need to be about ten minutes early so that your therapist can take you through the health questionnaire. I’ll arrange to have some coffee waiting for you to apologise for having to rush you.” The smile that Emma flashes them is so disarming that neither Bernie nor Serena can manage a more substantive reply than “thank you”. They take Emma’s last comment as a cue to leave and, gift bags and paperwork in hand, they make their way rapidly through the door to their left, which swings open for them as they approach it.

 

The description of their room as a deluxe suite was absolutely spot on. It’s large and airy with a four poster bed and a built in seat in the bay window overlooking the grounds. A large, comfy, sofa loaded with pillows takes up one corner to the main room, with a couple of arm chairs you could sink into next to them. Against the second window was a small, but elegant, dining table for two with matching chairs. The marble clad bathroom was complete with a walk in shower and one of the largest baths they’d ever seen. There was a large pile of thick, fluffy towels, embossed with the Hamilton Hall logo in an ornate open cabinet and the shelves over the double sink were stocked with trial sizes of more bath and beauty products that Bernie and Serena knew what to do with. If they’d had the time Bernie and Serena would have loved to explore the room and avail themselves of some of the facilities, but they only had time to unpack the couple of garments they didn’t want to get too creased before they got ready for their massage. Serena was busily pulling their new dressing gowns out of their gift bags when she froze.

“Bernie. What exactly are we supposed to wear for this massage?” she asks.

“Emma said to wear our robes.”

“Yes, but what do we wear underneath?”

“Oh!” Bernie exhales as it hits her what Serena is asking. “I don’t know.” she says honestly. “I’m not the best person to ask.”

“They can’t expect you not to wear anything underneath it, can they?” Serena asks, somewhat incredulously.

“You mean, go commando?” Bernie says, as she does a double take at the thought. Then an odd expression creeps across her face, and her eyes twinkle with mischief. “I’m game if you are.” she challenges Serena.

“Bernie!” Serena says aghast. “I’m not walking around a hotel with nothing but the knot in a dressing gown belt between me and my dignity!” Bernie can’t help but grin at the image.

“Whatever you decide you ought to make your mind up pretty soon. We need to be heading downstairs in a minute.” Bernie warns her as she starts undoing the buttons on her black fitted shirt.

“What are you doing?” Serena asks.

“Well I can hardly put my dressing gown on over my clothes now, can I ?” she explains as she slips the shirt over her shoulders and toes of her shoes.

“So what are you…. I mean...” Bernie takes pity on the woman in front of her clearly struggling with Spa etiquette.

“I thought I’d compromise by keeping my underwear on underneath. I’m sure people do and I very much doubt that the staff will care that much. Being comfortable is the main thing, I’m sure.” Serena doesn’t answer. She’s distracted by Bernie unfastening the skinny jeans she’s wearing and all but rolling then over her hips and down her legs. It really is quite the sight.

“Serena.” Bernie prompts her.

“Sorry.” Serena mutters as she refocuses her attention on Bernie’s face and what she’s saying.

“Underwear?” Bernie asks with a nod at the clothes Serena is still wearing. “I think it’s a good compromise.”

“Right. Yes. Of course.” Serena says, flushing slightly at being caught staring at Bernie, but nevertheless she starts stripping off her own outter garments.

 

Ten minutes later Bernie and Serena are sat on the soft, pale pink, padded bench in the out building that houses the massage room and sipping on hot, strong, coffee. Serena had finished the health questionnaire form she’d been given to complete. Bernie was still working on hers. Since the incident with the IED it had taken Bernie a lot longer than it had to complete such forms. Bernie had just go to the end when two women came out of the Treatment Room.

“Hi. I’m Donna.” The younger and more bubbly of the two women said “and this is Essie” she adds, indicating the quieter woman at her side, who had a very warm and comforting expression on her face.

“You must be Berenice and Serena.” Essie asks.

“Call me Bernie.” comes the almost knee jerk response from the woman in question.

“Of course. Bernie it is.” Donna complies happily. “Have either of you had a massage before?” she asks. When Bernie and Serena and Serena admit that they haven’t she and Essie take them through exactly what to expect. Donna is enthusiastic and keen, Essie is reassuring and calm. They make quite the team. Everything seems quite straight forward (even Bernie’s medical history) until Essie asks them

“Have you considered what scent you’d like for your massage?”

“Scent?” Bernie queries.

“We use an almond oil as a base or carrier oil and blend it with an essential oil of your choosing. Which one you choose depends on you – obviously what scents you like, but also what kind of therapeutic effect you’re looking for. Some essential oils are seen as relaxing, some invigorating, some help with anxiety, some are sensual...” Bernie doesn’t need to look at Serena's face to know that her eyebrow will have flown up at this last suggestion. Bernie decides to interject before Serena can say anything.

“What would you recommend for two busy and stressed professionals?” Essie considers briefly before saying anything.

“I’d suggest orange or sandalwood. Maybe neroli or bergamot. Any of those should be relaxing and help with stress.”

“I’ve always liked the smell of bergamot.” Serena notes.

“Then bergamot it is.” Bernie confirms.

 

Despite their initial reservations the massage proved more enjoyable than either of them had anticipated.

“Almost as relaxing as the one you gave me after I made the mistake of moving my mattress by myself.” Bernie points out once they’ve left the warm and inviting treatment room well over an hour later.

“Certainly more professional.” Serena admits. They both feel more relaxed and much less tense than they had before the massage. Donna’s claim to have magic hands did seem to be holding up to scrutiny. They both agreed that sharing the massage had been reassuring all round. Somehow the intimacy of being massaged made them feel less vulnerable when they could see their partner relaxing and enjoying their massage on their table just feet away.

The next item on their agenda for the day was a facial in Treatment Room 4, which they both started to look for.

“Have you ever had a facial before?” Bernie asks.

“Does doing a face pack at home with Ellie count?”

“Probably not.”

“Then no.”

“How complicated can it be?” Bernie asks. “It’s sitting there with cream or something on your face, right?”

“There’s a little bit more to it than that.” A voice from behind them says with a hint of annoyance. Bernie and Serena turn to find the voice belongs to a young man standing in the doorway of a room very clearly labelled ‘Treatment Room 4’ “I’m guessing you’re Berenice and Serena, my 4.30pm appointments?

“Bernie” Bernie says and the man nods his acknowledgement.

“I’m Dom and I’ll be doing your facials. Step into my office and I’ll show you the secrets to the art of a good facial.”

 

Neither Bernie or Serena move for a moment. They are both frozen in a state of mild but awkward embarrassment at being caught out out being less than complimentary about the skill and knowledge that clearly seems to go into facials – but also because there’s something about this young man. There’s something in his manner that takes them a moment or two to process, to take on board. When they don’t move instantly, Dom speaks again.

“Well come on. Don’t hang about. We’ve a lot to do and we have limited time.” Serena’s eyebrows fly up at this comment, taking it as something of a slight. She’s about to offer a cutting retort when she notices that Bernie is trying not to laugh. Any further thoughts of cutting Dom down to size vanish as they watch him all but flounce into the Treatment Room in such a camp way that he puts Glastonbury to shame. With a wicked glint in her eye Bernie whispers to Serena

“I think we may have ended up in a cliché. A camp beautician. Who would have thought it?”

“Better not keep him waiting though.” Serena warns and they both make their way into the room.

Before they know it Dom has them both ensconced in decadently soft and comfortable reclining chairs and is examining the skin of their faces much more closely than either of them were entirely happy about. He doesn’t hold back when it comes to offering his opinion either. Serena, he declares, has classic combination skin, but her chin and lower face is a little oilier than he says he would have expected.

“Do you cover your face a lot?” he asked.

“I’m a surgeon. Masks are a staple part of my work wardrobe.”

“Ah!” Dom replies. “That would explain it. At least it isn’t maskne.” At the blank looks from both Bernie and Serena, Dom is forced to explain that outbreaks of spots and acne on the lower face – or the area covered by a mask – caused by wearing a mask too much are known as maskne. Bernie didn’t fare much better under Dom’s knowing and expert scrutiny.

“Sun damaged. Dry. Abraded. What have you been doing with that lovely face? Not moisturising, I bet!”

“I was with the Army in Afghanistan. Moisturiser wasn’t considered essential equipment.”

“It should be! The thought of what all that sand whipping around you must have done to such delicate skin is going to give me nightmares. Luckily for you thought, I’m very good at my job. Let’s see what Uncle Dom can do to repair the damage.,.”

To be fair to Dom, despite his forthright manner of speaking and his seeming inability to pull his punches, he does seem to know his stuff – and he’s fast and efficient. He has both women cleansed and exfoliated quick smart. Bernie isn’t sure how being exfoliated is any different to having the sand scour her face in the dessert – but thinks better of asking. The facial massage he gives them, one after the other, is expert and soothing, the warm towels he lays over their faces when he’s done with the massages are relaxing and oddly comforting. Dom has been gently explaining each step as he goes, and keeping up a running commentary on a whole range of skin care issues and themes. It’s not the sort of conversation Bernie and Serena usually have, but his obvious enthusiasm for the topic, his wide knowledge and cutting wit were strangely relaxing and they find they are enjoying themselves much more than they thought they would.

Dom is very much in control though, especially when it comes to selecting the masks. Bernie, he insists, needs a clay mask with almond oil.

“I don’t know how much good it will do. It’s certainly not going to undo the years of neglect your poor face has been through. I’m good, but I can’t do miracles.” he warns her. Serena gets a clay mask too. For reasons that Serena doesn’t get but are clearly vital, hers has witch hazel in rather than almond.

“We can only hope for some witchy magic” he tells Serena, but doesn’t look overly hopeful.

 

Once they’re both covered in clay, Dom drops cotton wool pads soaked in rose water over their eyes.

“I’m going to leave you to relax. I’ll be back in ten minutes to finish you off.” Dom tells them as he slips out of the door.

“Finish us off? What more can he be planning to do to us?” Serena asks.

“I’m not sure if that was a threat or a promise.” Bernie chimes in. A slightly strangled sound comes from Serena.

“Don’t make me laugh. My mask will crack.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

“As far as I know it is. I don’t think I want to risk being told off by Dom.” This time it’s Bernie who stifles a laugh.

“Oh. It’s getting tighter. I’m not sure talking is that safe. Maybe we should just relax silently?” A muffled sound comes from Serena which Bernie takes as ascent.

 

It’s ten minutes later on the dot when Dom steps back into the treatment room to find it silent and his two clients very still and relaxed in their chairs. Dom’s not entirely sure that one or other of the two – or even both – aren’t asleep. He’s far to professional to make anything of it though. Instead he starts explaining the next stage of the process to them. Bernie and Serena, who aren’t entirely sure themselves if they haven’t drifted off, find themselves listening to far more information about cleaning and toning than they ever thought they’d need to know. Dom gives them a few moments to adjust to his return before before removing their eye coverings and jolting them back to full alertness.

If Bernie and Serena thought that the removal of the clay marked the end of their facial they were very much mistaken. They soon learnt that once their faces were free of the last remnants of the masks there was a whole regime of toning, blotting and moisturising to go through. When, finally, Dom pronounced them done they’d been in their chairs for almost an hour.

“How does it feel?” Dom asks them keenly. Both women have to admit that their faces feel smother and, somehow, lighter and fresher.

“You’re both glowing.” He tells them enthusiastically. “I think this might be some of my best work.” he says as he stands back, arms folded, and assessed them. “You both work for the NHS, right?”

“We do.” Bernie confirms.

“My husband’s a Senior Nurse at St. James’. I couldn’t do what he does, what you guys do.” Both Bernie and Serena make dismissive noises, but Dom quiets them. “Not where I was going. I know how hard you guys work. How important your hands are and how much you put them through. Whenever I get NHS staff in I like to offer them a little something extra by way of appreciation.”

Dom pulls open one of the drawers in the large alcove which has been specially fitted out to hold all his facial supplies. He fishes out a small glass pot of what looks like a very expensive cream.

“I make it myself.” It’s mainly shea butter with argon and jojoba oils – with a few little additions of my own. It’s supposed to be soothing on over worked and over scrubbed hands. I usually apply it along with a short hand massage – if you’re interested.” It’s such a kind offer that neither Bernie or Serena feel inclined to turn it down. They soon decide they’ve made the right decision. The cream smells delicious and works wonders on their worn skin. The real magic though is in Dom’s hands. Ten minutes for each of them, five per hand, of attention from Dom and the knots and tension deep in their muscles melt away – and it was blissfull. Before they knew it, the clock on the wall is edging towards 6pm and they have to rapidly start taking their leave. They are scheduled to read Guinevere her bedtime story at 6.30pm. Jason will not be happy if they are late and they still have to log onto the Spa Wi Fi and successfully navigate Zoom. There’s no guarantee that there won’t be a hitch or two.

 

It takes a bit of doing, and a few inappropriate words said under their breaths, but by 6.25pm Bernie and Serena, still wrapped up in their dressing gowns, are huddled together on their four poster bed, laptop logged into Zoom and waiting, book open ready for Guinevere to appear on screen and story time to start.

It goes rather smoothly in the end. Guinevere is rather unfazed at her Great Aunts appearing on screen, or so it seems. She’s a little over a year and a half old and it can be hard to tell. That said, it’s clear to see that the voices provided by Bernie and Serena are an absolute hit. It’s several encore performances (as Bernie refers to Guinevere's cries of “again”) before a very excited and happy tot is taken off to bed by her Mother – and, Serena can’t help thinking, a second, calmer, story to help settle her. Jason takes the opportunity to ask them about their stay and what they’ve been doing. He throws in some tricky questions, like why do massages make you tired? Why did they put clay on your faces? And why are you wearing dressing gowns? Bernie and Serena answer as well as they can – glad for the explanations Donna, Essie and Dom had provided them with. Jason had accepted the rationale behind their treatments as having a scientific basis.

The still wearing dressing gowns at almost 7pm (even with the explanation that it made treatments easier and protected ordinary clothes from damage) proved a much harder sell. Jason, it seemed, was very much in the ‘dressing gowns are nightwear’ camp. They’d assured him that there were intending to dress for dinner in proper clothes, and pointed out that they should probably go and do just that before it got too late. Suitably reassured that his Aunts were a) enjoying their gift and b) planning to put on some proper clothes, Jason lets them go.

Bernie and Serena flop back onto the wall of pillows on the bed and enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet before Serena asks

“Do you want to try the restaurant here? Dinner’s not actually included in the stay – although we do get breakfast in the morning.”

“Why not.” Bernie agrees.

“What time do they serve dinner?” I know it’s early yet, but we do have to get dressed and I’d hate to accidentally be to late and miss out because we didn’t know what their service times were.”

Bernie leans over to the night stand on her side of the bed and picks up the small folder of information about the Spa that had been helpfully provided, but they’d not yet had time to examine. Bernie flips through the pages and finds the one that has the details of the restaurant. She reads it over once, her eyes rapidly scanning the entry. Her hand hovers over the text as she re-reads the entry, much slower and more carefully this time. She takes a deep breath.

“Serena. I think we have a problem.”

“What?” Serena asks, more intrigued than concerned.

“It seems the Spa doesn’t serve alcohol.”

Chapter Text

“What?” Serena all but explodes. Wordlessly Bernie hands over the information pack and points to the sentences in question.

In line with our belief in a holistic approach to health and well being, and the inadvisability of drinking alcohol before many Spa treatments, Hamilton Hall is strictly an alcohol free zone. We have a wide variety of fruit juices, herbal teas and mock tails for our guests to enjoy.

Serena’s eyes widen as she reads.

“Did you know this?” she asks Bernie, a certain amount of outrage in her voice.

“No. Of course not. I would have told you if I did.”

“Why would Jason have sent us to a dry Spa?”

“I imagine it never occurred to him it would be an issue.” Serena lets out an annoyed acknowledgement of Bernie’s point.

“Don’t suppose you thought to pack a bottle of Shiraz in that suitcase, did you?” Serena asks with hope, but very little expectation.

“The thought never crossed my mind.” Bernie confirms. They sit silently contemplating – until Serena makes a decision and abruptly launches herself from the bed.

“What?” Bernie asks, bemused. “I don’t think you’re going to find a mini bar.”

“I can find a restaurant though, or a bar. Dinner wasn’t part of the gift There’s no reason we have to stay and eat here. There must be somewhere that serves a decent Shiraz close enough to visit.” Bernie recognizes the determined glint in her partners eye.

“How long will it take you to get ready?” Bernie asks.

“Does it matter?”

“If you want me to have a taxi waiting it does.”

 

In the end it takes Bernie and Serena less than half an hour to shower, get dressed and make their way down to the Reception area. They’ve made it as far as the lift and are almost on the ground floor before Bernie asks

“Where are we going?”

“I thought you had somewhere in mind.”

“No. Why would you think that?”

“Because the cab company must have asked where the cab was to?”

“I jut told them a local restaurant. They didn’t ask me anything else.”

“Oh.” Serena says, punctuated by the ping of the lift announcing it’s arrival on the ground floor.

“I suppose there’s no point in asking if you have any ideas?” Bernie tries as they walk out of the lift and towards reception.

“Afraid not.” Serena confirms as the door swings open in front of them. A smirk works its way across her face as she adds “maybe one idea” and hustles through the now open door, Bernie following close on her heels. It soon becomes clear what has enthused Serena. Emma, the woman who had booked them in, is neatening up the leaflets and brochures on the table on the opposite side of the room. Serena makes a bee line for her.

“Excuse me.” she says and Emma spins round to meet her with a broad smile.

“Hello. How were your treatments?”

“Lovely. Very relaxing.” Serena is quick to reassure Emma, who had looked slightly concerned but visibly relaxes at the confirmation.

“Is there something I can help you with?”

“Could you recommend somewhere we might get dinner?”

“Oh. I’m sorry. Did I not mention when you checked in that our Restaurant serves a range of meals, both in our Conservatory area or as room service. I do normally remember to do that. I can get you a menu if you wait just a minute.”

“Please don’t apologise. You did mention the Restaurant when we checked in, and we did look up the folders in our room. It’s just that we were looking for somewhere with, shall we say, a wine list.”

“Ah!” Emma says, “The no alcohol policy isn’t universally popular.”

“I’m sure the food in your restaurant is lovely though.” Bernie adds

“Oh. It is. It’s really good!”

“I don’t doubt it.” Serena notes. “But if there was somewhere you could suggest...” she adds a warm and persuasive smile for good measure. Emma looks a little conflicted.

“I’m not really supposed to recommend other places to eat.” The woman says and Serena’s face falls.

“But...” Emma goes on, a conspiratorial tone in her voice. “I did have an amazing time last Friday evening, if you’d like to hear about it.”

“Um. I don’t think ….”

“Oh. You really do want to hear this.” Emma insists. “I went to this amazing bar. Liberation it was called. The food was brilliant. Top notch. Very long wine list. Best part is it was only about a ten minute drive from here. Just go out of the entrance, turn left and head away from Holby. It’s up on your left just after the bridge over the river.” Emma looks intently at Serena, as if willing the woman to get the message. She needn’t have worried. Serena has absolutely got the message. In fact the next thing Emma knew she was all but engulfed by Serena Campbell hugging her so tight she almost squeezed the life out of her. Before she had a chance to regain her breath Bernie was telling Serena that their cab had arrived. There wasn’t a chance for Emma to speak in the flurry of thanks and goodbyes that trailed behind the two women as they rushed out the door.

“But it’s a….” Emma tries as they vanish into the darkness of the car park. Oh well. Emma thinks to herself as she turns back to tidying the leaflets. They’ll figure it out themselves soon enough.

 

The taxi driver, it turned out, knew exactly where Liberation was, and the whole journey was simple and fast. The bar was as easy to find and as close as Emma had promised. The bar itself seemed to be some kind of converted barn. It’s dark wooden timbers could have made the place look forbidding, but someone had had the bright idea of suspending a virtual rainbow of coloured lights from every inch of beam. The effect was a little overly colourful for Bernie and Serena’s tastes, but they had to admit the light being thrown off made the place look warm and welcoming.

This time the heavy wood door didn’t open automatically for them and they have to give it quite a significant push. A redeeming feature was the large menu illuminated in a glass display box by the door’s side. An even larger redeeming feature was the even larger wine list in the box next to it.

They step inside to find the inside of the barn is fresh and bright, a welcome contrast from the late December darkness outside. The far side of the barn is lined with intimate booths - their bench seats covered in a soft, dusky rose pink leather. There are a scattering of tables of various shapes and sizes around the booths forming a cosy dining area. Each booth and table has a cluster of night lights in glass holders around a violet plant in a ceramic dish. The ceramic dishes are emblazoned with what must be Liberation’s logo. It looks more than inviting. Bernie and Serena have discovered that being pampered is hungry work and they both seem to have built up quite the appetite. It’s also built up quite the thirst in them too.

Whilst Bernie would have been happy to head for one of the tables. Serena wants to head directly to the bar. There’s never any serious doubt as to where they’ll end up heading first. The bar is long – almost from one end of the barn to the other. Made of similar, but lighter, wood than the beams that criss cross the ceiling it looks inciting and Serena is determined to fully avail herself of it.

They’re served almost as soon as they reach the bar. The place isn’t deserted but it also can’t be said to be busy by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe there aren’t enough people in the area who want to get away from homes and families to make up for those away visiting their families to keep the numbers up. The woman who serves them turns out to be quite knowledgeable about wine. She helps Serena chose a Shiraz that she’s never tried before (and, she informs them, is vastly underpriced for the quality you get). In fact she’s so convincing she persuades Bernie to forgo the glass of white she’d usually have and share a bottle with Serena. Bottle and glasses in hand they are dispatched to the closest of the booths, menu’s thrust into their hands along with promises of a waitress being with them very soon.

The booth is as comfortable as it looks, the wine is just as good as they’d been led to believe – if not better. Their attention turns to the menu’s in front of them. It’s not a large menu, neither is it short. It’s a well balanced assortment of largely Italian inspired dishes. It’s clearly been crafted with some skill, and it’s enticing. After considerable deliberation, Bernie opts for the home made butternut and sage tortellini served with burrata. Serena goes for the champagne risotto served with scallop, langoustine and clams. They agree that one of the anti pasta sharing platters is a much better option than a started each. They’ve barely had time to make their decision before their waitress is at their booth ready to take their order. She’s friendly and efficient and heading off to take their order to the kitchen almost straight away. Bernie and Serena sip contentedly on their wine, relaxing and enjoying the music in the background. They’ve been together long enough now to appreciate the gentle togetherness of companionable silence and not feel the need to fill it with words.

It’s only a few minutes before the waitress returns bearing a wooden charcuterie board bursting with cold meets, cheeses, olives, chunks of bread and oils for dipping. She also has a second bottle of wine in her hand.

“We didn’t order that.” Bernie points out, indicting the bottle she’s carrying.

“I know.” the waitress reassures them as she places everything she’s carrying ton the table. “It was sent to you by the lady in the corner”. The waitress points in the direction of a high table flanked by stools in the opposite corner of the room. Serena and Bernie turn their heads to look where the woman’s indicating. “She’s a regular.” The waitress tells them. “Her name is...”

“Fleur...” Serena finishes for her and waves at the woman.

“What did you wave for?” Bernie asks. “She’ll come over now.” Sure enough, Fleur, glass in hand, is sashaying across the barn. The waitress, sensing that there might be tension brewing has rapidly made her exit.

“I had to.” Serena protests. “She’d think I was ignoring her otherwise.”

“Aren’t you?” Bernie asks, confused.

“Well, yes, after our last night out, I am. But that’s not the point.” Serena manages to get out before she slaps a broad smile on her face. Bernie follows her lead and affixes a smile to her own face, although somewhat less broad, before Fleur arrives at their booth. Fleur wastes no time in greeting Serena with a lingering kiss to the cheek, sliding into the booth next to her – and sitting a little closer to her than absolutely necessary.

“Well this is a sight for sore eyes,” Fleur declares as she reaches over to grab a particularly succulent looking piece of Serrano ham and a cube of bread. She dips them both, and the tips of the fingers she’s holding them with, into one of the dishes of oil, cheekily popping the whole morsel into her mouth. Serena seems to be about to say something, but is forestalled by the sound that emanates from Fleur. The best way Bernie can think of to describe it as a moan, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s absolutely a moan, but the kind of moan that shouldn’t be heard outside the bedroom. The kind of moan that should be reclining on a nest of pillows in rumpled lingerie smoking a post coital cigarette. Both Bernie and Serena feel abashed at having been included in what seems to have been a fairly intimate moment. Fleur seems to be totally oblivious. So oblivious in fact, that she slips an oil covered finger in her mouth, licks it clean, and lets it fall out of her mouth with a ‘pop’ and a deep hum of satisfaction. She repeats the same process with each of remaining oil covered fingers whilst Bernie and Serena watch as if they’re in some kind of trance. Bernie wonders idly if there is a term for a cross between food porn and finger porn. Before she can decide what that term might be Fleur breaks her chain of thought by speaking.

“Delicious.” she pronounces in low, honeyed and very dirty tones. The way she’s looking at Serena when she say it Bernie can’t quite be sure if she’s referring to the food or the woman next to her. Fleur washes down her pilfered snack with a measured swig of the rose wine in her glass.

“So what brings Holby’s hottest silver vixen and the werewolfe all the way out here?”

“A Christmas present from Jason.” Serena tells her and explains about Hamilton Hall, their alcohol free policy and their search for dinner somewhere with a wine list.

“I knew that being alcohol free would cost them dinner bookings. Dorothy couldn’t be persuaded out of it though.”

“You know the owner?” Bernie asks - at the same time as Serena asks

“You knew it was tea total?”

Fleur grins broadly at the comic look of betrayal on Serena’s face.

“Dorothy and I move in similar circles, shall we say? If I’d had any idea you were going to be visiting I would have made sure to have tipped you off and suggested smuggling some contraband in. Although I have to say that bumping into you here is very much an unexpected pleasure.”

“What brings you so far out of the centre of Holby?” Bernie asks, attempting to shift the topic of conversation to something with fewer potential flirting opportunities. She doesn’t hold out that much hope. Fleur’s default setting is flirtatious, and she doesn’t seem to have an off switch.

“It’s one of my favourite places. It’s nice to be able to go somewhere you can be completely yourself and not have to worry about what other people might think or do.” Bernie and Serena look perplexed. Fleur looks at both of them in a concerned manner, trying to work out why they both seem so confused. A flash of realisation hits her.

“You know this is a gay bar, don’t you? I’m assuming that’s why you chose to come here?” Fleur asks, glancing intently from one woman to the other for some kind of response.

“It is?” Serena obliges.

“Well, yes,” Fleur confirms, trying not to laugh at the expressions of surprise on Bernie and Serena’s faces “I mean, the rainbow lights outside? The pink leather, The violets? Didn’t any of that give it away?”

“Obviously not.” Serena says in a tone that suggests she’s stating the obvious.

“Then how did you end up here? Not that I’m complaining. I’m always happy to be in the company of beautiful and accomplished women.” Bernie rolls her eyes, still not fully comfortable with Fleur’s overt and outrageously flirty manner, which leaves Serena to reply.

“One of the staff at Hamilton Hall told us how close this place was and what a nice time she’d had here. It was the closest she could get to recommending a restaurant other than their own apparently.”

“And she never thought to mention that it was a gay bar?”

“Clearly not. Though we did rush out on her a bit – we may not have given her time to tell us.”

“To be fair she probably thought it wouldn’t mind. She knows us as Jason’s Aunties and we are booked into a suite together.” Bernie offered in mitigation.

 

“A weekend of new experiences for us then.” Serena notes.

“Oh!” Fleur pounces on the opening. “What exactly have you been up to?” The raised eyebrow accompanying the question makes it clear which direction her mind is moving in. Serena almost sighs before explaining.

“We’ve never been to a Spa before, or a gay bar – at least not knowingly.”

“Really?” Fleur asks, seeming genuinely surprised. She makes a quick recovery though. “I have a first of my own tonight. A first date. So, as much as I’d love to stay and help you finish those bottles of wine I’m going to have to love you and leave you. Can’t be responsible for leaving another broken heart in my wake by standing Bea up. She’s far too cute for that.” Fleur sweeps up her glass, slides along the bench and gets to her feet. “I’m very much looking forward to the entertainment later.” she adds with a glint in her eye.

“Entertainment?” Bernie asks.

“Karaoke, starting about 9.30pm. I’m hoping Serena might consider a repeat performance.” she says with a wink at Serena – and makes her exit. Bernie gives Fleur a few moments to get out of ear shot before she asks Serena.

“You don’t mind that this is a gay bar, do you?”

“No. Not at all. I’m proud to be seen anywhere with you.” Serena replies and reaches across the table to cover Bernie’s hand with her own. Bernie tries to suppress the red stain that’s creeping up her neck and onto her face, fails, and instead pops a cube of gorgonzola into mouth. It doesn’t do much to mitigate the effects of Serena’s words though, or the compliments behind them.

“Different question. Why exactly are you trying to avoid Fleur?” she tries “and what has karaoke got to do with it?”

“What makes you think that karaoke has got anything to do with it?

“Oh, you know, the way you blanched when Fleur mentioned it, little things like that….” Serena swallows heavily.

“It’s not directly linked to karaoke.” she says, admitting at least that karaoke is somewhere in the mix.

“You sing really well. There’s no reason you should be this embarrassed by karaoke.”

“It’s not really the singing that’s the issue.”

“Are you going to tell me or are you going to make me guess?” Bernie asks, giving Serena a fierce look, spoiled only by the olive she slipped into her mouth at the same time – which fails to stop the grin she’s trying to stifle from covering her face. Serena offers a raised eyebrow in return.

“You don’t have to tell me. I’m not going to make you. I doubt it’s as bad as you think though. It can’t be any worse than what I’m imagining – whatever it is.”

“It’s embarrassing.” Serena confides, twirling the stem of her wine glass between her fingers.

“Obviously, or you wouldn’t be avoiding Fleur – but what could be bad enough that you’d feel embarrassed in front of Fleur? She has no shame.”

“She took me to a club. They had karaoke. I sang.” Bernie says nothing, just waits for Serena to continue. She does.

“I sang ‘Sisters are doing it for themselves’. Fleur’s idea. Celebrating my sapphic awakening.”

“Go on.” Serena tries to look blank but fails.

“There’s more to it than that.” Bernie states.

“I may have accompanied my singing with a dance routine. On the table.”

“That’s not so bad.”

“It was inspired by my foray into pole dancing in my younger days”.”

“And...”

“Isn’t that bad enough?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen you pole dance. I’d like to though. I’d absolutely like to. As I’ve not yet had the pleasure then I couldn’t possibly say. That’s still not it though, is it?” Bernie knows Serena well enough to know when she’s holding something back. Serena admits defeat and steels herself to ‘fess up.

“I’d had one or two drinks by that point. For some reason I decided that the top I was wearing wasn’t right for pole dancing, so I took it off.”

“You danced on a table in your bra? Well it’s not that bad. I’m sure Fleur’s done worse. I’m sure she enjoyed the view too.”

“Oh she did very much enjoy the view. I was wearing the camo print bra you gave me. Ever since she saw it she’s been insisting that I have uniform kink.”

“But you do have a uniform kink.”

“I know I do. I just don’t really want Fleur to know that I do. You know what she’s like.”

“Relentless?”

“Exactly,”

“And that’s why you’ve been ‘not’ avoiding her ever since?”

“Mmhmm.” Serena mutters into her wine as she takes a gulp.

“Do you want me to have a word?”

“No, no, it’s fine. She’ll lose interest eventually, and, in the meantime….”

“You’ll keep avoiding her?” Bernie interjects.

“Exactly.” Serena confirms.

“I don’t think you’ll have to wait long.”

“What do you mean?”

“For her to lose interest. See for yourself.” Bernie tells Serena, gesturing subtly towards the booth on the far side of the barn that Fleur was now sitting in. Their line of sight was far from ideal but it was clear enough for both of them to see that Fleur had been joined by a slender woman with a riot of red hair flowing freely down her back. It was also clear that Fleur was sitting a lot closer to the woman than was strictly necessary. The woman didn’t seem to be complaining. In fact she seemed to be leaning into Fleur.

“It looks like Fleur’s attention is going to be diverted in a very particular direction.” Serena concurs.

“There’s still one thing I’m not sure of though.”

“Oh?”

“Why didn’t I know that you could pole dance?”

“I didn’t think it was very relevant, or that you’d be very interested.” Serena replies coyly.

“Then you’d be wrong. I think it’s very relevant and I’m very interested. Very interested indeed.” Bernie looks intently at Serena, who takes a slow and deliberate sip of wine, clearly considering her response carefully.

“Would you be interested in a private performance?” Bernie looks up at Serena from underneath her fringe.

“Very much so.”

“It’s not ideal, but I could show you a couple of moves on one of the four posters on our bed. What do you think?” Bernie grins back at her.

“I think we should see if we can change our minds and make our order a take away.”