The Spider Paradine
a short novella by
Josephine S. Vanner
The characters and events in this book are a work of fiction from the author's imagination and in no way reflect any real events or real people.
The young well fed baby bovine schematic.
Anna and Larry Appleton, had no idea they were being very carefully scrutinized as they drove their open top Mercedes, into the driveway of their holiday cottage. They didn't come to the cottage very often. Anna had bought it on a whim several years earlier. It was in the south and Larry a northerner, didn't much care for the 'snotty nosed', Hampshirites as he called the locals living in Swanley. He didn't like the countryside either, the city had so much more to offer him, he couldn't see the point in burying himself in rural peace for a day, let alone a whole dreary month.
He'd come to the cottage under sufferance and only because Anna's family were threatening to visit from Poland. He reasoned, if he wasn't at home, then he wouldn't have to put up with the bunch of scroungers, his wife called family.
A self made millionaire from dealing in scrap metal, Larry was a short, bald, vain man, who thought sucking in his paunchy stomach made him look virile. Crude manners and an unbelievable lack of sensitivity to the feelings of others, made him very dislikeable. He had no friends and didn't want any. He'd met Anna when she came to his office as a temporary assistant. At the time, he was forty and had begun to imagine people thought him gay. He married Anna, not out of love but to dispel any doubts as to his sexual preferences, as she didn't love him, it was arrangement that suited them both.
Anna, eight inches taller than her husband, never made any pretense - she married Larry, for his money. Not the archetypal blond Polish beauty, her body carried a heavyset frame that gave no evidence of working out at a gym. She hid under the dye of her dark brown hair a colour combination of grey and mouse and with a complete lack of dress sense she managed to make expensive clothes look cheap. All of which Larry didn't give a damn about, his wife had one outstanding quality above all the other woman he had considered marriage material. She forgave Larry's habit of night time kerb crawling looking for prostitutes. They shared the same seedy appetites and sexual deviations.
Diane, gave this unexpected new opportunity an hour before she called at their front door with an invitation to dinner.
It was Anna who answered her knock, “Yes?” she asked in her thick Polish accent, “Can I help you?”
It gave Diane, a chance to appraise if the female of the pair would be suitable for Gerry. She could hardly contain her delight at the woman standing on the doorstep. Not slim like Jess and nowhere near as attractive, she was just the type Diane preferred to entertain her husband.
“Hello, my name's Diane Ward, I'm your neighbor well almost neighbor we, my husband Gerry and I, live next-door but one. As you have just got here, I thought instead of you having to cook tonight, why don't you and your husband? Come and have dinner with us?” Diane gabbled pleasantly hiding behind friendly chatter her dark ulterior motive.
She waited with mentally crossed fingers as Anna went to ask Larry if he wanted to accept the invitation.
“Why not? Saves having to go out to some blasted fancy overpriced restaurant.” Larry replied, never the one to pass up a freebie meal.
Shortly after renting Foxglove cottage, Diane had filled the freezer and cupboards with every conceivable delicacy she might need for an impromptu dinner party. Dripping with anticipation at the possibilities this new couple might offer, Diane raced back, as fast as her bulk allowed, home.
No great intellect, Diane never read books or a broadsheet newspaper. Her television watching consisted of a diet of soaps and talent shows – yet she was more lethal than any great thinker, inside her mind dwelt an animal cunning and a personality that just stopped short of being a sociopath. She had been married to Gerry for almost fifteen years, fourteen and a half of those years she had indulged his game, for sometime she had grown weary of playing to his fantasies.
This will be the last time, she told herself, I won't play any more. She was going to find away to have Gerry back all to herself again. What if, this time, the game goes wrong. Maybe I can make him hate the game, maybe. Her thoughts ran along this comforting route as she meticulously prepared the dinning table for her guests.
She hadn't invited Jess and Harry, much better to get to know Anna and Larry without any interference from them. Such a shame Gerry liked them as much as he did. If he wasn't so smitten by that wretched Jess, she could ditch Jess and Harry in favor of this new couple. Her instincts told her Larry and Anna were going be so much better suited to the game.
“Well done.” Gerry congratulated her and even allowed her to give him a short hug, as she told him about their dinner guests, “Always good to have a choice.”
At precisely eight o'clock that evening, Larry pressed Diane and Gerry's doorbell, clutching like it was a bottle of Châteauneuf-du- Pape, the cheap bottle of red wine he'd bought from the local supermarket.
“What can I get you to drink?” Gerry asked in greeting as his guests entered.
“Gin and tonic for me and a whiskey and ginger for Anna.” Larry replied unashamedly handing Gerry the cheap bottle of plonk.
As they ate their way through the lavish five course meal, Larry did most of the talking. Gerry and Diane, nodded in agreement, successfully hiding behind Cheshire cat grins plastered across their attentive faces, utter boredom.
By the time coffee was served Larry, had long exhausted the subject of how much money he'd made from the scrap metal business and had brought the conversation around to the number of people he knew that were having extra marital affairs.
He never noticed his wife's sudden change of expression.
Diane did - immediately.
She noticed the look on Anna's face go from total disinterest to one of complete absorption.
She's having an affair. Shall I take the opportunity and ask it they enjoy playing away from home? She wondered.
No, it's too early, she told herself. Never on the first meeting had they ever suggested the game. Besides she didn't know if Anna and Larry met with Gerry's approval.
So far Jess and Harry, were Gerry's favorites She didn't like Jess, she liked Harry even less, but Gerry did - and the game was, after all, for Gerry's pleasure.
She decided to wait and see what Gerry had to say once their guests had gone home.
“Well that was wonderful,” Larry said for the tenth time as he and Anna made to leave, “I must say you put on a wonderful spread. You certainly laid out the fatted calf for us.” He patted Diane's cheek and unobtrusively took a handful of her large buttocks and squeezed.
“We must do this again – soon.” He winked at his hostess and pushed himself further against her.
So you do play.
“What do you think?” She enthused to Gerry as she closed the front-door on their guests.
He sipped his brandy thoughtfully, “I think.” he said slowly, “I think that pair have definite possibilities.”
“Shall we drop Jess and Harry from our plans?” Diane kept her voice non-committal. If Gerry thought for a moment she didn't want Jess and Harry to join in their game, he would want them all the more.
She knew Gerry couldn't stand the sight of her. She saw it in his eyes as he looked at her and the way he shuddered as he pulled from her touch.
The only reason he stayed with her, was her compliance to the game. She consoled herself that one day, she would make Gerry pay for the way he treated her.
Gerry gave his wife a cold stare from deeply dark brown eyes that often made her feel that no soul lived behind them.
“We will keep all our players on the board.” He said his tone ice.
The memory of how he'd treated her, the first time he'd shown his true nature to her, kept Diane from arguing with him.
“We've been here almost six weeks. You know the rules. We gather our little band together on the sixth day of the week, of the sixth week. So get them here on Friday night. Six happy people all together for the game. 666.”
He stood up, drained the rest of his brandy, “Clear this mess up.” He said pointing at the dinning table as he went to bed, leaving her to clear away the remains of their dinner party.
I'm tired too, she muttered angrily to herself as she cleared away the dishes and empty glasses.
Diane knew better than to openly voice her dissent. He knew how to inflict pain as effectively as he knew how to give pleasure.
Next week - Chapter 3
Spider, spider, hanging in the web – who is the naughtiest fly of them all.