Livia would have let it rest at that, but Marcia kept the initiative the very next week by calling Livia to say that she was meeting her sister for lunch in London, near Harrods and would she, Livia, like to join them if they could get babysitters. That seemed like a great idea to Livia. Escape!
The three met in a discreet Italian restaurant in Pavilion Road. Sofia's lunch hour seemed endless. Her presence at lunch didn't arouse Livia's suspicion, particularly after the second bottle of champagne she had insisted upon!
All a little light-headed perhaps, the conversation darkened.
Marcia went over to Livia's house in the next town. Like her own house, it was a high-spec detached place consistent with the affluent Essex golden triangle. 'New money' exclaimed its presence.
Livia's kitchen was certainly something and they sat and ate a very nice lunch, and more importantly drank rather a lot of the Prosecco magnum that Marcia brought. She'd come by taxi so as not to cramp their style.
Livia was quite guarded initially, unsure why Marcia had come over. They did moan about their respective spouses, but gave away little.
Marcia did detect some issues though.
Livia was surprised to get the call from Marcia. She hadn’t seen or heard from her for well over six months. Strange.
“Hi Liv,” Marcia started. Very familiar, thought Livia straight away. “Oh hi!” she replied.
“Liv, I got to thinking. We’re both always stuck at home, so maybe we ought to make the best of it. What say we meet up for lunch and then we can moan about our husbands over a glass of Prosecco?”
“Sounds good”, lied Livia. “Why not come here and I can brag about my new kitchen?”
“Great! I’ll bring the booze... when’s best?”
“When you say ‘bring him down’, Sofe, how far exactly do you plan to go?”
“Well how far is there?” asked Sofia.
“The mortuary, I guess.” was the answer.
“Well that's far enough then!” Sofia added, in her deepest voice.
“There’s one problem though, you know.” said Marcia. “Terry. He may be the weaker, but take Tony down and you’ll have him to reckon with... or take him down too... or quit!”
“That’s true.. Terry would be lost without Tony. You have to be cruel to be kind!” Sofia laughed. “But we’ll need help!”
”Livia!” the women declared in unison.
“I’m saying nothing.” said Marcia.
“You don’t have to, you already have without saying a word. I spend lots of time round your house and I’m not stupid. He must have done something to really bad to you and yet you’re sticking around. I don’t want to know, but if I needed a reason to get Tony, that’s plenty enough for me! Add to that the reality that until very recently he didn’t like me at all, then that’s an even more interesting challenge. I don’t like him or his kind... but you have to keep your enemies close, until...
"The only thing I don't quite get, Sofe, is why you want to take Tony down just for being a lousy shag. Bit extreme don't you think?" Marcia chuckled again.
Composed once more, Sofia explained. "I've seen the change in you Marcia over the past year. And I see how you guys hate each other. I know we never used to be close, but when someone messes around with my big sister, they mess around with me. You were such a gutsy woman... now you're not."
"Excuse me!..." Marcia bristled.
"It's true... and there's only one person responsible for that!"
On hearing Sofia's list, Marcia stopped in her tracks.
"Oh my goodness, that is so delicious...so fucking delicious!" Marcia exclaimed. She laughed out loud, causing her sister to wonder what she'd found so funny.
"You're like a praying mantis!" she continued. "I will take him down, why that sounds almost biblical itself."
Marcia continued laughing, which then infected Sofia, who wasn't quite sure why they were laughing. When it had died down, Sofia asked.
"You don't mind?"
"Mind? Mind? No I bloody don't mind. I hate the vicious bastard. I've every reason. Bring it on Sofe... and I'll help you!"
"Before you answer Sofe, let me make it quite clear that I couldn't care less if you are shagging the bastard. If it keeps him away from me, good luck to you. Honestly. You are most welcome to him, but please don't tell him I know, and I will keep very quiet, I promise. But I'm intrigued as to why you would want to sleep with the monster..." Marcia put her arm round her sister and gave her a hug.
"OK, here goes. One, he's powerful, two I can have power over him and three, I will take him down!"
"Sorry Sofe", said Marcia touching Sofia's arm. "That was really unfair of me, quizzing you like that out of the blue. But I know Tony only too well and I could tell he was starting to like you. It was only a matter of time. He couldn't stand you at first, but when you started flitting about under his nose, well, he is so bloody predictable!"
"I'm really sorry Marcia... it just happened." Sofia started to try and explain.
"It never just happens as you put it Sofe. I just hope you'll get something good out of it.... but what?"
Sofia got a shock one day while she and Marcia were walking Giovanna.
"How are you getting on with Tony?" enquired Marcia casually.
"Oh, he's OK... why do you ask?" Sofia made it sound as casual as the question asked, but she sensed danger.
"I mean what's he like?"
This was getting very worrying.
"What's he like?"
"Oh come on Sofe. I know you're sleeping with him!" This was said without any hint of anger or rancour. "What's he like to shag?"
"Truly?" Sofia asked, still coming to terms with the question.
"Uhu!" Marcia nodded.
"Really, really crap!"
It was a regular thing from then on and always the same routine. On weekends she stayed over, Sofia gave the baby her midnight feed and Tony would be waiting when she returned to her bedroom. He avoided the nursery in case Marcia came out, but he needn't have worried, that was the last thing she wanted to do.
The sex was always the same... ‘Wham, bam’ without even the ‘thank you mam’. But Sofia liked the sense of Tony's power and she reflected upon her own power over him. This was the most delicious part of the encounters.
Typical of many men, Tony wasn't a good lover. He was a selfish one. He didn't have to try, so he didn't. Sofia was very disappointed as she had imagined rather naively that a powerful man might make a powerful lover. She was wrong. It was as if she was a task to be fulfilled... but fulfilled she was not. She understood immediately how Marcia might have been disappointed too.
If she'd been intoxicated with Tony's power until now, this was the point at which she started to 'sober up'. She had fulfilled her first goal.
Now for the second...
Silently, Tony reached for Sofia's hand, which she offered. Closing the nursery door, he led her to her bedroom which was furthest from where Marcia slept. He closed the door.
Sofia didn't say a word, She just disengaged her hand, sliding the straps of her nightdress off her shoulders. one by one, almost in slow-motion. The garment slipped gently to the floor. A nice seductive touch, but one that wouldn't 'make the cut' as Tony spoiled it by lunging at her naked body as if it too might slip away.
Then a mere mechanical process with female sound effects.
The signals were there. Something would happen tonight. However, Sofia's confidence was coming back. She said no more. She just took her time with baby Giovanna, changed her wet nappy and was putting her back into the cot. Meanwhile, Tony hadn't moved or offered to help. He'd just kept his eyes on Sofia.
Then there was a call from Marcia's bedroom.
"Everything OK Sofe?"
Sofia put her finger to her lips and mouthed shhhh! and called back "Yep, she's fine. Just putting her back down."
"Thanks." came the drowsy return call.
"Now what?" asked Tony
Silently, Sofia gestured 'Your call."
"Seen enough yet?" Sofia challenged Tony.
"Not nearly enough!" Tony's gaze lifted and he looked her straight in the eyes. Having always kept herself very composed around Tony, suddenly Sofia was taken by surprise. Her challenge disintegrated. This was it. Or might be.
All she did was say nervously "I guess I look like a younger version of my sister and you must have been attracted to her once, though you don't seem to like each other now. Maybe I'm your type too."
"Unlike Marcia, I actually quite like you.”
"You're a ballsy cow, but I like you too"
Sofia was starting to enjoy herself. She became aware that Tony was becoming much more friendly to her, which she matched, always with some reserve. What wasn't reserved though was that she continued to float around the house in her nighties when she was staying over. Tony didn't mention again that she should cover herself up. He liked it this way and he occasionally looked in on her giving Giovanna her nightly milk bottle.
One such night, looking up, she noticed Tony staring at her cleavage. She didn't ignore it.
"What are you looking at Tony?"
"You know full well"
“What makes you think I want to screw you?” Tony bristled.
"I didn't say you wanted to screw me. I was making a general point about men. You are one aren't you?"
Sofia had skilfully thrown in a subtle challenge. She'd risked Tony's anger. He could have gone crazy at that stage, but all he did was turn and leave.
'He's thinking about it' she said to herself.
She looked down at baby Giovanna and noticed that from where Tony had been standing, her nightdress would have shown off rather a lot. His rapid exit had said a lot too.
Possibly because she was his wife’s sister and helped out, or curiosity, Tony’s disinterest in Sofia mollified gradually. He was his version of friendly, which, for a person whose fundamental instinct was mistrust, was unusual. Sofia's long game was paying off.
Once, after Giovanna was born, when Sofia was giving the baby a bottle, Tony looked in.
Seeing them, he asked.
“Why ain’t you got a man to spend time with? Ain’t many girls would want to clean up shitty nappies. It ain’t natural!”
“I’ve had it with men,” she replied nonchalantly, “all you guys want to do is screw.”
On visits to see her sister, and helping with Giovanna, Sofia found a way to cope with Tony's grunts and general demeanour. She was always civil and occasionally offered him cakes she’d made, but in an offhand manner, so she didn’t show her hand. Although on occasions she did show quite a bit more.
"Can't you keep yourself covered up, woman?" he growled one day.
"Sorry, I didn't realise it was bothering you" Sofia replied.
"It ain't." That was all he said. Whether he noticed Sofia's quizzical look which said 'Oh really?' was unclear. However, it wasn't mentioned again... until...
Sofia became a regular overnight and weekend visitor to Tony's house in Chigwell, Her strategy was to spend a fair bit of her spare time round with Marcia at first, then when baby Giovanna arrived, she became an attentive auntie and friend.
On weekends she would offer to babysit for Marcia while she went shopping. That suited Marcia and suited Tony too because he tended to be around at home at the weekends himself. It enabled Sofia to be there in a positive, helpful way. But she wasn’t in a hurry to ensnare Tony, she was playing a long game.