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Thread: Tea, Coffee, and Me Ch. 1 of 3 – Fictional foot fetish/femdom story.

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    Tea, Coffee, and Me Ch. 1 of 3 – Fictional foot fetish/femdom story.

    Tea, Coffee, and Me.

    Ch. 1 of 3: David has no option but to opt for option two.


    Mrs Hilary Harper, businesswoman owner and manageress of Harper's Conference Catering, soon realised she'd landed on her feet when I landed at her feet.

    Or - and more to the point:

    At the feet of her exclusively female clientele.

    ***


    To most people, in town about their daily business and routines, it was just a Thursday afternoon much like any other.

    But not to me.

    Pedestrians, though, who glanced my way as they passed by, could have no inkling as to my overnight transformation.

    Of my new status.

    There were no outward, visible, giveaway signs of change; nothing that anyone could put their finger on, and then point that same finger at me and say to a companion: Hey, look - he's different!

    But, different, I was ...

    It was the occasion of my eighteenth birthday, and with it came the abrupt culmination of my education.

    As suddenly as that, the 'best days of my life' were behind me.

    At eighteen I had reached adulthood, and with said milestone maturation had attained for a male what the UK's Authoritarian Female Party government termed 'Serviceable Age'.

    And so it was, that on that Thursday afternoon with their Letter of Notification in my pocket, it was with the trepidation born of a lowered sense of place and a heightened sense of vulnerability that I turned up for my Career Classification Assessment at Brighton Job Centre.

    As implied by the title, the CCA interview was for the Job Centre authorities to categorise my employability standard, and to then decide the direction my career path should take - I would have little or no say in it. My assessor, whose decision would be final, was empowered to decree my fate.

    Before I entered the building, I took a moment to look at the latest poster messages in the windows, appealing for in-work male volunteers to help, in their spare time, to man some of the AFP's most critically undermanned female-friendly facilities.

    AFP Prime Minister Caroline Flynt herself was pictured, pointing her forefinger in a Your Country Needs YOU!-style depiction.

    More like a demand than a petition, more a command than a plea, the times of crisis-style posters cajoled rather than coaxed: 'Spare Time Is Wasted Time!' and 'Days Off Are Days Lost!' and others adjured: 'Sign-Up Here - Now!'

    Not only did Prime Minister Caroline Flynt hold the top political job, but there was no question that she was also the AFP's best recruiting sergeant of non-enforcible auxiliary help.

    Upon signing up, most volunteers admitted when filling in the attached questionnaire, that of all the AFP's leading-light Cabinet Ministers it had been Ms Flynt's influences and not least her personal appeals to them on AFP TV that had persuaded them to go along to their local Job Centre and sign on the dotted line.

    Why did they do it?

    While I, myself was neither impervious to Ms Flynt's charisma or immune to her charms, I was not one to be lured, summoned, tempted, or seduced - suckered and snared - into the AFP's Venus's flytrap.

    I could only suppose that those sorry signatories who foreswore to fritter away their leisure time in the maintenance and furtherance of female-friendly facilitations, vacancy-filling the AFP's frivolous follies in their voluntary downtime servitude, were trying to ingratiate themselves with the Authoritarian Female Party.

    Perhaps, misguidedly, they thought (or were slyly given the impression) that the gift of their freely offered precious downtime would not be forgotten - that their valuable self-sacrificing contributions to the female-friendly cause would be remembered and duly rewarded.

    Perhaps, naively, they assumed (or were cleverly led to believe) that their ongoing volunteered services would not all ultimately be for nought - that they would be racking up and storing away a few credits for when almost inevitably they would be needed.

    But I wasn't buying it - I saw it for what it was.

    It was all a cunning, callous, carefully contrived con.

    The AFP, users and abusers of their downgraded and downtrodden male citizenry, would be laughing up their sleeves - tickled pink, at the naivete and the soft-headed gullibility of so many of their menfolk.

    So easily misled, so easily misguided.

    Or rather: Deceived, taken in - hoodwinked.

    The lingual latitudes of the AFP spin doctors, casuists, and sophists - their double entendres, clever misdirections, subtle sleights-of-tongue - all going right over the heads of woefully uncomprehending or lamentably overtrusting males who, in their almost wilful state of denial only heard what they wanted to hear.

    The AFP's silver-tongued line spinners were making false promises and offering fake rewards - unredeemable inducements.

    And the shortfall shoring, auxiliary helper in-work volunteers were falling for it.

    When, almost unavoidably these dupes haplessly fell foul of the AFP, unintentionally or perhaps even unknowingly infringing one of the many rigid rules and regulations as applied to males under the all-female government's Constitution, there would be no in-the-bank credits for volunteered downtime services rendered.

    No indemnity. No mitigation. No reprieve.

    And no leniency.

    Instead, there would be another cruel twist.

    Informed by a Letter of Notification, they would then be put on a Placement Rota and forced, not just to continue to step up to the plate to fill a gap and to provide the same, relatively female-friendly 'light' services that previously they had voluntarily sacrificed most of their free time to facilitate. But also to perform some of the other, diabolically demeaning, grievously demanding, highly disagreeable functions and facilitation of a decidedly more submissive, servile, and subjugative nature.

    It was, well documented, though, that more and more men were 'Coming Out':

    Authoritarian Female Party sympathisers - seeing the way the political wind was blowing and, from every indication, was going to prevail for some considerable time, growing in confidence enough to nail the AFP's quartered red, green, blue and yellow flag to their mast.

    Dedicated feminists - coming out of the closet to declare their wholehearted agreement with and unreserved passionate support for the AFP's female-friendly Utopian ideal.

    Stating publically via social media outlets not just their avowed categorical allegiance to the movement's all-female membership and particularly to its exalted Cabinet Minister and MP leadership. But, many of them, supplying along with their female-rule/female-power embracing ideologue 'resume' their names and their phone numbers and offering also to local females their permanently available summonable services.

    For in-work males who answered Ms Flynt's clarion call by signing up at the Job Centre reception desk to pledge their free time to help facilitate or to provide as required one or more of said advertised unremunerated or otherwise materially unrewarded female-friendly 'light' services, their willingness would be noted and recorded in their files.

    I'd made sure to arrive early.

    To miss a Job Centre appointment without a checkable justifiable reason would have serious consequences.

    But just being late for one without good excuse would not go unaddressed either; would incur a sanction - perhaps a 30-Day Community Service Order.

    60-Day penalties were not unusual, though, even for a first offence, if you happened to catch your interviewer on a bad day.

    Come to that; even 90-Day Orders were not unheard of - in fact, I knew of one.

    It all depended, upon the critical factors.

    The 90-Day Community Service Order I knew about involved Eds - Eddie Edwards.

    Eddie, a fellow Seagulls (Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club) fan and former school chum, had abruptly left full-time education a year earlier on the occasion of his eighteenth birthday. And like me, he had graduated with the same inadequate academic accomplishments - atrocious educational accreditations, that ensured his scraping the bottom of the job option barrel.

    But as it turned out, it would be six months before Eddie's Career Classification Assessment took place and a Job Centre interviewer gave him a 'real' job.

    Monday to Friday 8-5 and with the option of Saturday morning (8-1) as overtime with pay at time and a tenth, Eddie was still working for the AFP's minimum wage in Brighton council's recycling shed - which also served as the renewables hub for another dozen or so local towns.

    Alongside other such unfortunates, Eddie spent his workdays standing in front of his designated conveyor belt, stripping and peeling the paper and plastic labels from the relentless flow of tins, bottles and other containers that both his fellow and nearby townspeople were either too lazy or uncaring of renewable and environmental issues to do themselves.

    Less than jubilant at listening to the less than attractive recycling-plant worker's job description, Eddie, in the respectful lowered tones of his newfound reverent attitude towards females, had meekly asked if there were perhaps possibly please any other employment opportunities that might be open to him.

    But his stony-faced hardhearted (Eddie's words) Job Centre interviewer had told him flatly and uncompromisingly that his "self-determined" circumstances were such that she was not prepared to sit there and listen to "the likes of" him bicker and complain. It was the recycling shed, or she would assign him to a Placement.

    Well, apart from his humiliating verbal slapdown, at least it hadn't hurt to ask.

    But as it was, even the dispiriting prospect of peeling off and scraping away stubbornly glued-on labels in the drab and depressing environs of Brighton City Council's smelly and noisy and draughty recycling shed was such a considerable upturn in Eddie's fortunes that he considered it nothing short of a blessing.

    Because before that, for those intervening six months since he'd left secondary school, I had acted as Eddie's confidant and 'shoulder to cry on' as, miserably reliving his more memorable (haunting) household humiliations, he recalled and reflected upon some of the worst of his housebound belittlements.

    Eddie had told me many times, as the weeks went on and turned into months, that he was struggling to cope; that he couldn't "go on".

    That he was becoming so down and despairing, so dispirited and demoralised by the daily diabolical domiciliary demands - the torments and traumas of what, to magnify his misery, he had come to see as his self-inflicted misfortunes and self-imposed misadventures - that he was close to "breaking point".

    Eddie told me that was it not for my sympathetic ear he didn't know how he could go on enduring such wretched, nightmare-inducing travails.

    Eddie needed to let it all out, to let off steam - to rant and rave against the AFP machine.

    But he couldn't tell just anyone about his abominable afflictions occasioned in the commissions of his Council-enforced, CSO-designated domestic drudgeries.

    The Community Service Liaison Officer had put Eddie on attachment to the Domestic Work Detail.

    The DWD was one of the AFP's female-friendly schemes, administered and overseen by the AFP's female 'foot soldiers' - the Community Service Officers.

    Eddie's hours of Social Servitude: 08:00 - 18:00, or until finished. And for seven days a week until the completion of his 90-Day DWD Order - or until he had served any add-on penalties, served concurrently.

    Eddie admitted that housework wasn't his forte, that his talents lay elsewhere.

    But he swore that whenever he crossed the threshold of yet another residence, in the face of often appalling difficulties and sometimes abominable challenges, beset by the lady/ladies of the house he worked his albeit inexpert fingers to the bone, always doing his damnedest to deliver with distinction in the dreary domestic discipline.

    But, for all of his albeit self-interested and self-protective commitment to housecraft assiduity, during his 90-Day DWD Order, he had nonetheless accumulated another three months' worth of such add-on penalties, resultant of complaints and allegations rightfully lodged or bogusly alleged by dissatisfied or otherwise disgruntled housewives or female house/flatmates.

    Some, for valid reasons and so justifiable (but others, malicious and purely for cruel-minded amusement), seeking appropriate redress (or malevolently wishing to add injury to insult) they had demanded as per their AFP Constitution entitlement (or asked for the fun of it) that in their presence Eddie is Standard-Sixed.

    Or even that they, themselves be allowed to pull down his community servant-style elasticated-waist white work shorts and administer the customary on-the-spot summary chastisement personally.

    A not uncommon request, Eddie had said, his bottom lip aquiver.

    And that usually, with an indifferent shrug or a nonchalant nod or an indulgent smile, such petitions to bare his buttocks to perform the Standard Six punishment penalties personally were also customarily approved and granted by the cane-wielding CSOs.

    Assignment to the Domestic Work Detail involved being dropped off at a given number of residential addresses throughout the day; the two-man work teams delivered to the designations of their Social Servitude penances by CSOs in their AFP vans.

    (The sister-detail, the BWD, predominantly served female-staffed office-based businesses, but also had presences with Placemented or drafted-in as required 'units' in many other female-staffed workplace environments.)

    The organising into pairs of the 100-strong squad of two-man DWD work teams and the drawing up of their residential allocation worklists was decided and ordained at the arbitrary discretion of the supervising CSOs.

    Equipped with fully accessorised rechargeable cordless vacuum cleaners, carry-trays of spray-bottle and aerosol cleaning and polishing materials, sponges and cloths, and some rubbish bags, DWD teams reported respectfully to the residences of housewives or female house/flatmates who had applied to the Community Service Liaison Officer for the free-for-the-asking services of the DWD.

    As required by the housewife (or the female house/flatmate/s), in addition to the Standard Valet Service the two-man work team would unfailingly oblige and carry out whatsoever extra household chores and tasks as specified under her (or their) supervision as per her (or their) instructions.

    Failure to obediently comply and to diligently perform any and all additional requirements would be to provoke a Standard-Sixing or risk an add-on penalty or receive both.

    Assignment completed, on the AFP-network mobile phone issued to them, the two-man DWD cleaning crew would then contact the Community Service Liaison Centre.

    Reporting in that the housewife or female house/flatmate/s had now dismissed them after having made her/their Performance & Attitude notations and remarks and signed and timed their worksheets, they would inform the CSLC that they were now waiting outside the residence to be picked up and taken to their next job.

    Sitting in the back of the AFP van en route to their next Standard Valet Service assignment, they could plug their vacuum cleaners into the van's adaptor for a power boost and from onboard supplies replenish as necessary their spray-bottles.

    During their thirty-minute mid-shift meal break back at the council yard, they could leave their vacuum cleaners to recharge more fully, while they topped up their spray bottles and replenished their cleaning sponges and polishing rags and retrieved and binned in the skip the morning's residences' filled-up rubbish bags from the parked AFP vans.

    The two-man, mutually reliant cleaning crew had better have done a good job, too.

    If the housewife or the female house/flatmate/s were not entirely satisfied with the housecleaning results, she/they needn't just passively leave things to run their normal course and get her/their satisfaction in absentia.

    If she/they had a complaint (or any other issue) with either or both of the albeit non-pecuniarily procured pair, she/they needn't suffer her/their critical and dissatisfied Performance & Attitude notations and remarks on the DWD work team's worksheets to be noted and acted on in due course. She/they could state her/their grievance/s to the CSOs who came to pick them up and insist that her/their issue/s be addressed and settled immediately.

    As alluded to, as female citizens dissatisfied with the quality of the services or unhappy with the attitude of the male or males provided to them by AFP authorities to serve whatever purpose, under the Female-Friendly Act they were entitled to request the administering in their presence of the Standard Six bare bottom caning penalty.

    In the case of a two-man DWD team, the norm was that not just the culprit at fault (or out of favour) but both members of the housecleaning duo would receive the Standard Six penalty.

    The not easily won exceptions/absolutions to this, were if for some reason one of them was let off the hook by dint of a female citizen invoking her rightful prerogative to decree either an 'Expressed Exoneration' or a 'Special Exemption'.

    'Expressed Exoneration':

    A housewife or female house/flatmate might feel moved to exercise her constitutional privilege to invoke this pardon, in token appreciation of her housecleaner's exemplarily diligent and uncommonly compliant application to and scrupulousness with his cleaning and polishing efforts on her behalf and at her behest.

    'Special Exemption':

    A member of a two-man DWD work team might also escape the cane, by the reprieving mercies of an otherwise favourably disposed housewife or female house/flatmate, for ... whatever reason.

    Hence the two-man DWD work team's reliance upon each other to do an excellent Standard Valet/additional-extras job for the housewives or female house/flatmates they were sent to serve.

    And the critical factors, in Eddie's case?

    Eddie had reported five minutes late for his Career Classification Assessment interview; could provide no valid excusable reason for his delay; was not profuse or abject enough in his apologies and expressions of remorse to his interviewer, and exacerbated matters still further when he had seated himself without awaiting her permission for him to do so.

    Eddie had told me that his interviewer had put him on notice, there and then, informing him that she would be referring him to the Community Service Liaison Officer, Miss Delia Dilmot - who was also the Authoritarian Female Party representative for Brighton.

    Eddie said his interviewer terminated his interview and sent him home, pending the results of the inquiry she was initiating. His belated profuse apologies and expressions of abject remorse fell on deaf ears.

    And that two days later Miss Dilmot - the higher authority to who these more egregious/multiple-offence infringements and transgressions were forwarded to and judged - evaluated Eddie's tardiness and his non-adherences to standard female-friendly protocols and awarded the 90-Day Community Service Order sanction she felt best befitted his string of insolent misbehaviours.

    Hence my own, perhaps seemingly over-precautionary, but still nonetheless highly advisable half-hour early arrival at the Job Centre for my Career Classification Assessment interview.

    And so, with a bit of time on my hands, I looked at the job vacancy boards and read the other prominently displayed urgent appeals for in-work male volunteers until when, at precisely two-thirty, a no-nonsense sounding female voice called my name over the PA system: "David Manners! David Manners, report to Job-Seeker Interview Desk Five."

    I made my way over to Interview Desk Five, at present the only one of six that was vacant.

    On my way to Interview Desk Five, I glanced at the other five interviewees.

    Unsurprisingly, all of them were male, and upon seeing their glum faces and their hunch-shouldered, defensive postures, I saw the first tangible signs that things didn't bode well.

    Nowadays, females were not obliged to work for a living.

    Though not all females went along with the so-called female-friendly ways of the AFP - some, to the extent of protesting in the streets and participating in rallies and, after ignoring repeated warnings from local AFP representatives, ending up in prison in defence of their equal-rights values and beliefs - they were in the minority.

    In fact, unless females wanted to work for their living (for career reasons or entrepreneurship - or choosing to work purely from a moral standpoint), they were not only allowed but actively encouraged by the AFP to claim the government's ludicrously generous Ladies of Leisure Living Allowance.

    Benefits to recipients of the LLLA included: Automatic payment of their utility, phone and Internet bills; free bus, rail and Tube travel; cost-free admission to gyms, swimming pools, cinemas and theatres; and their pedicure salon, hairdresser, and coffee shop tabs paid upon presentation of their AFP-Supporter ID cards.

    Hence, since they could live comfortably from proceeds of the AFP's male taxation-supported scheme (on a sharply rising scale, male workers were deducted tax from their gross income from a starting-point minimum of fifty percent), I was not the least surprised to see job-seeking females conspicuous by their absence.

    I saw the second tangible sign of ill omen when I saw my interviewer.

    These days, the Job Centre staff were all female - the AFP were of the view that male staff might be empathetically disposed towards male job seekers and would be tempted to stray from the rigidly mandated constraints of their remits and take it upon themselves to lean towards leniency.

    My interviewer was a girl who was about a year older than me, whose Careers Adviser name tag told me she was Toya Tomkins.

    When Miss Tomkins didn't say anything for some moments but merely regarded me, seemingly appraisingly, my rapidly growing nervous agitation became such that I took it upon myself to open our interlocution.

    "Good afternoon, Miss Tomkins," I said respectfully, remaining standing.

    From the discreet distance at which I stood, through the kneehole of her desk I observed with a leg man's appreciation the toned shapeliness of Miss Tomkins' bare, olive-complexioned legs, and noticed that she wore a comfortable-looking pair of well-worn red leather flats.

    Miss Tomkins did not deign to return my polite pleasantry of the day or reciprocate my engaging smile but, crossing her right leg over her left and then dangling her well-worn red leather flat precariously from her toes as if it was something she did all the time, held out her hand for my Letter of Notification.

    The Job Centre's Letter of Notification was their legally enforcible document.

    Letters of Notification were sent out to all school leavers who had no work or training to go to upon finishing full-time education, which was why I had received mine.

    Among other recipients of the dreaded official notices were Unemployment Benefit-claiming long-term unemployed, who had reached the end of their statutory two-week (soon to be reduced to one week) entitlement. For them, it was likely to mean a Placement.

    For recipients thus advised of their upcoming Job Centre interview or apprised of the details of their assigned Placement, ignoring or not responding promptly or appropriately to these summonses or dictates was in both cases criminal and could incur anything from a stiff Social Servitude sanction to Detention and Rehabilitation custodial consequences.

    I now handed mine over.

    And only then did Miss Tomkins, with a curt nod towards the seat opposite her, indicate that I sit down.

    As favoured by Prime Minister Caroline Flynt's Authoritarian Female Party government and therefore worn by their 'foot soldier' CSOs as a part of their uniform, I was both dismayed and discomfited to see that although a civilian Miss Tomkins supportively wore her hair in the AFP's trademark adopted but severely adapted concave bob style.

    At seeing it, I felt the familiar sense of foreboding; a feeling of dreadful apprehension - for wearers of the unprepossessing hairstyle seemed, ipso facto, to exude threat and emanate menace.

    For though Miss Tomkins comported the cocky confidence and arrogant authoritative assuredness of all AFP-empowered employees, her almost militaristic-like haircut was the finishing, fear-inspiring touch that gave her dyed-in-the-wool AFP apparatchik appearance an air of implacable harshness that otherwise she would not have projected.

    I sat there, remaining silent, minimising direct eye contact, and hoping my facial expression was bland enough to be deemed neutral.

    That I'd left full-time education with low grades would no doubt be reflected now, I thought, manifested in the dismaying standard of the work openings available to me.

    Miss Tomkins leafed through my Final Term's teachers' reports and read the summary of my school grades appended to the Job Centre's Letter of Notification. And as she did so, she glanced at me several times, seemingly consideringly.

    Upon having read the document, Miss Tomkins' hand then slammed down several times with thumps of fateful finality as she rubber-stamped each page with Brighton Job Centre's crest.

    She then scooted on her castor-wheeled swivel chair to the long bank of grey metal filing cabinets lining the back wall; her bare heels, popping out from her well-worn red leather flats each time she propelled herself.

    I watched her pull open to its full extent the long drawer labelled 'L-N', and insert the multi-paged document into a green file folder, in one of the several box-files marked: 'M'.

    As Miss Toya Tomkins scooted back toward her desk, the momentary images of the bottoms of her slightly grubby bare heels and not least the even more fleetingly glimpsed suggestions of narrow, somewhat sweaty-looking pale olive-skinned soles, were still on my retinas.

    Miss Tomkins then outlined my employment options - of which because of the limitations imposed by my abysmal academic accomplishments (although, only a few of years ago, pre-AFP, my end-of-education results would have been graded as above-average), she decreed I had just two:

    1) Assignment to a Placement, facilitating one of the AFP's so-called female-friendly schemes.

    But not duties female-friendly 'light', as often performed by the in-work free time-sacrificing auxiliary volunteers. But providing service/s and functions altogether more demanding, demeaning, and infinitely more disagreeable.

    My hackles raised, I felt the almost uncontrollable urge to protest; to rant and rave against this, albeit, now all too common outrage.

    But somehow I managed to stifle it; to nip the vociferous outpouring in the bud.

    The consequences of such an outburst would not merely be deleterious, detrimental - but disastrous.

    Miss Tomkins apparently understood that I realised the injudiciousness of giving vent to my emotions, as was attested by the smug smirk on her face as she then read out the long list of vacant/undermanned female-friendly Placement positions for my consideration.

    When I did not volunteer a preference, Miss Tomkins highlighted the Placement vacancies that, due to both the ongoing expansions of established facilities to meet ever-increasing demand, and the newly operational projects and schemes furthering AFP ambitions of a widening diversity and more widespread availability, were most urgently needing to be manned.

    Uppermost of these were 'Sock Room Attendant' and 'Air Purification Technician'.

    Sock Room Attendant:

    Assigned to assist (or temporarily replace, during the absented incumbent's undergoing of medical and- or psychiatric treatment for the increasingly common affliction of Community Servant Burn-Out Syndrome), run-down or washed-out Sock Room community servants, hand-washing the city's (or a nearby town's) females' dirty socks.

    Air Purification Technician:

    Assigned to man - be strapped onto supinely - during both outbound and return flights, one of an aircraft's Seat Line-serving computer-controlled under-seat railed conveyances (Air Purification Technician Service Vehicles). To attend push-button summonsing female passengers who, upon automated sequenced demand, took their turns in acquiring access to his sealed-mouthed, fixed-in-place face via their automatically retracting footwells.

    With admiration in her voice and adoration in her eyes, Miss Tomkins proudly informed me that the Sock Room and the Air Purification Technician concepts were the brainchildren of Prime Minister Caroline Flynt herself.

    I hadn't known that - but it didn't surprise me in the slightest to learn of it.

    I remembered the day when ... maybe two years ago now, a TV programme I was watching was interrupted by an AFP broadcast, and a beaming Prime Minister Caroline Flynt announced the imminent introduction followed by the nationwide rolling-out in the very near future of the laughably titled Air Purification Technician service.

    And then about a week later, out of sheer fascinated interest in this latest outlandish female-friendly scheme, I had watched on AFP TV the coverage of Ms Flynt presiding over the pre-launch ceremony.

    At the time, it had struck me as odd that the AFP Transport Secretary, Yvette Carter, was not presiding - that she, herself was not taking the plaudits and basking in the glory and claiming the kudos for introducing the much-awaited and excitedly anticipated new female-friendly service.

    But yes - thinking back, I think I had, seen the glowing, realised-ambition pride on Ms Flynt's face as she, herself cut the ribbon for the inaugural Air Purification Technician-served flight: SH 123 Manchester-Corfu.

    AFP TV covered the Sunshine Holidays aircraft's mid-afternoon return to Manchester Airport, and I had watched that, as well - the earlier programme had given its follow-up show such a big, sense-of-occasion build-up, piquing my interest as to what the returning female air passengers were going to say.

    The media were there en masse.

    The national daily editions and local weekly issues and regional monthly magazines of the AFP Times were by then the UK's only newspapers and periodicals.

    Standing alongside the AFP Times' chroniclers, though, foreign sensationalist red-top tabloid hacks and their better respected broadsheet brethren alike vied for advantageous position along the Arrivals Hall barrier rail.

    Some looked on, pens poised on pads, while others scribbled away twenty to the dozen as jostling and shouting national and international TV journalists with boomed microphones accosted Flight SH 124's first appearing homecoming female holidaymakers as they pushed their suitcase-laden trollies of Duty-Free and dirty washing through Terminal 2 Arrivals.

    I watched, along with millions of other captivated domestic and foreign TV viewers, as the badgering, pushy inquisitors followed their brighter, bubblier, more loquacious prospects outside to continue their interviews in more depth and greater detail.

    Responding to the TV journos' cheesy-grinned, blatantly leading questions, the Grecian-suntanned female air passengers had nonetheless genuinely wowed and enthused, shouting over each other in their eagerness to recount their recollections of the new AFP-subsidised in-flight service.

    And, how they had laughed!

    Had laughed, chuckled and tittered as, looking unabashedly and unashamedly into the TV cameras they gave everyone at home their fondly remembered, often comedic and sometimes ribald account/s of their experience/s with the Air Purification Technician they'd push-button summonsed to their retractable footwell on the inaugural flight's return from Corfu.

    Of course, there had been a tremendous amount of press and TV coverage of Flight SH 123's arrival in Corfu.

    One such aficionado of particular note on the historic outbound flight was a stunningly beautiful girl who told everyone at home that her name was Anne-Marie, and that recently turned eighteen she was now "old enough to become an air hostess!"

    Anne-Marie said that she'd had such fantastic fun, sitting in Seat 22 D. Tormenting with her "stinky feet", Air Purification Technician "Danny", who's automated under-seat railed Service Vehicle responded to the in-sequence demand of the push-button summonses of female passengers seated in Seat Line D.

    So much so, said Anne-Marie, that having gleaned job-related information from members of cabin crew and procured from the flight's Chief Stewardess her promised personal assistance with an insider's influencing word with Personnel, she had already taken the first steps to becoming a Sunshine Holidays air hostess.

    And why?

    So that she, too, could share in more fully and enjoy more entirely and indulge in more completely - luxuriate in, more decadently - the air hostesses' previously undreamed-of fabulous perk of the job:

    During the turnaround interlude at the destination airport, the same sealed-mouthed facial 'access' to the Air Purification Technicians as enjoyed in-flight by the service-availing female passengers; and then upon their return to their Sunshine Holidays crew room, their relieving and relaxing post-flight, hands-on foot-service attentions of the 'Techies' ...

    Assigned to a Placement, I would earn the equivalent of the Unemployment Benefit to which as a school-leaver I was not entitled to claim.

    2) Take up an urgent employment vacancy:

    A full-time job at minimum-wage, working for a small company called Harper's Conference Catering.

    Ah, this was more like it, I thought - until at Miss Tomkins' relating the dismaying, disturbing, and outright disagreeable details of the job description.

    Miss Tomkins, picking up on my growing alarm and increasing dismay at what she was telling me, said that if I wanted to be difficult, I had a third option: Enrollment to a three-month ideological female-friendly indoctrination course at the Detention and Rehabilitation Centre two miles north of Brighton - the notorious Greystone Prison.

    Mindset adjustment therapies, designed to instil into subjects a perfect understanding of all aspects of the AFP's female-friendly concept, were conducted by Greystone Prison's all-female prison officer training-instructor staff - the infamous browbeating, cane-happy, face-slapping, ball-kicking, Foot Service-teaching 'Jailhouse Blues'.

    Miss Tomkins confidently assured me that was I to choose this third option, within half an hour of being incarcerated in the Intensive Cure Wing of the detention centre I would be begging to be let out of Greystone Prison and pleading to be assigned as first offered to a Placement.

    Because by comparison, CSO-supervised hand-washing of females' dirty socks in a Sock Room; or forced inhalation of the fumes from push-button summonsing female air passengers' feet (ostensibly to improve air quality), and then serving at the air hostesses' post-flight feet back in their crew room - would seem like a let-off.

    Miss Toya Tomkins told me that as my Careers Adviser she strongly recommended that I choose option two.

    And that if I wanted to get into her good books - which wouldn't do me any harm, but might, just possibly do me some good - I wouldn't wait until Monday.

    But start at eight a.m. tomorrow, Friday.

    To please her, and to show willing to my new employer by getting her out of a fix.

    Noticing my vocational indecision, Miss Tomkins reminded me that my only viable alternatives were to opt for a Placement as a Sock Room Attendant or an Air Purification Technician - and she told me that if I wouldn't or couldn't choose, she would decide for me.

    Realistically I had no option but to opt for option two.

    After I had respectfully stood to gratefully accept and profusely thank Miss Tomkins for the invaluable benefit of her career advice and the incalculable helpfulness of her wise counsel, she handed me her personalised Job Centre card to give to Mrs Hilary Harper tomorrow morning when I reported for work.

    I had got up to leave and had almost reached the exit door, when Miss Tomkins stopped me in my tracks when she said, "Oh, and David ..."

    I feared the worst.

    Dreaded, that for all of the respect that I had so humbly accorded her, for all of the reverence I had self-belittlingly bestowed upon her - for all of David Manners' meek, mealy-mouthed manners - Miss Toya Tomkins was still going to slap some form of sanction on me anyway just because she could.

    But when I turned around and retraced my steps to a discreet distance from her interview desk, to my surprise it was to see that, no longer playing hardball, her harsh, hardline, hard-faced countenance seemed to have softened slightly, post-interview.

    Underneath it all, Miss Tomkins was a strikingly attractive young woman.

    Miss Tomkins didn't immediately say anything. And soon feeling somewhat flustered under her apparent new, unofficial appraisal, I averted my gaze respectfully downward.

    And through the kneehole of her desk, I couldn't but again note the beautifully sculpted bone structure and toned shapeliness of Miss Tomkin's bare, olive-complexioned legs. And to observe that, as if habitually, with one leg crossed over the other she was dangling from the tips of her toes her comfortable-looking well-worn red leather flat; her prominent, somewhat grubby heel, free and clear.

    After Miss Tomkins had said nothing for what seemingly was some time, but just slowly swung her shoe-dangling foot up and down, varying the precariousness, and repeatedly flexing and angling her finely shaped ankle to facilitate ever more examples of footloose expression, I finally looked up.

    Miss Tomkins quickly looked away.

    "Er, yes, Miss Tomkins?"

    She might have intended to say something, and maybe, she hadn't.

    Perhaps, it was just some sort of psychological trick.

    A cruel-minded tactic; a part of the game, that all of the Job Centre interviewers routinely played.

    A ploy, that they all used, to last-minute discomfit their interviewees.

    "Um, nothing, David. Just, don't be late for work tomorrow morning. And ... um, ask Mrs Harper to call me. My direct-dial number is on the card I've given you. I'll be here in the office from eight. And tell her it's important."

    ***


    Mrs Hilary Harper came as a pleasant surprise.

    I don't know what I'd imagined.

    But when at eight a.m. on the following Friday morning as instructed I turned up at Mrs Harper's business premises, it wasn't the red-haired, green-eyed beauty she turned out to be.

    I wasn't good with ages, but I guessed my sex-appeal oozing employer was somewhere between twenty-five and thirty.

    Mrs Harper asked if my Job Centre interviewer yesterday had given me a clear understanding of what she expected of me as her employee.

    And when red-faced I said yes, she produced a Harper's Conference Catering staff badge and pinned it to my shirt.

    Mrs Harper then briefly introduced me to her two assistants: Amanda, who nodded, slightly reserved but agreeably enough; and Zoe, who smiled, and whose eyes lingered on me somewhat longer.

    I then passed on to my new employer Miss Toya Tomkins' personalised card and related her message about the importance of giving her a call at the Job Centre.

    Mrs Harper looked at her wristwatch and said that she would just nip back into the office and give Miss Tomkins a quick call before we set off.

    While I waited with my two new female colleagues, I maintained a respectful unobtrusive silence as between them Amanda and Zoe discussed the workday ahead and talked about what they were going to do over the weekend.

    A couple of times, from the corner of my eye I saw Zoe glance over at me.

    When Mrs Harper returned five minutes later, she gave me a look that I couldn't interpret, and that caused Amanda and Zoe, who also saw their employer's cryptic expression, to look questioningly at each other, before saying, "Well, come on then, you three - let's go!"

    The large white van with its blue-lettered logo that had made it a cinch for me to locate Mrs Harper's business premises quickly was parked right in front of the adjacent garage's steel roll-up door, all ready to go.

    Mrs Harper got in the driver's seat, and at the passenger-side door, Zoe gestured for me to get in first.

    As she drove her catering van to our destination on Brighton's promenade, my employer used the travel time to enlarge somewhat on what my Careers Adviser at the Job Centre Miss Tomkins had told me.

    Mrs Harper informed me that, just over a year ago, with her entrepreneurial sights set on exploiting what she saw as an inexplicable niche in the sector, she had applied for and been granted the AFP's Female Enterprise Start-Up Disbursement.

    The AFP had liked her proposed business plan and had promptly approved the provision of state funding. The start-up money had been available in her bank account the next morning.

    Harper's Conference Catering was an instant success, she said.

    Word had got around fast, too.

    Glowing references and referrals from her delighted clientele to other interested parties ensured that business picked up quickly.

    On the wave of such eulogising recommendations and enthusiastic endorsements, in no time at all her company was established and her diary always full.

    She would love to be able to consider expansion, enabling her to cater at more than one conference/function/event venue at a time - year-round, there was always so much going on in Brighton.

    But the drawback problem that was keeping her from expanding her company and holding her back from taking on more female assistants as she wished to, she said, was that it was so difficult to find the all-important male employee with the right qualities.

    Amanda and Zoe had been with her right from the beginning when they'd both turned eighteen.

    Mrs Harper told me that on top of their salaries, Amanda and Zoe both earned a five percent share of her net profits, plus what - looking at me askance, the same as when saying she'd found "an inexplicable niche" in the sector - she described as "at-work fringe benefits".

    And she impressed upon me that, if I came up to her expectations and realised her hopes and proved myself to be the elusive invaluable company asset she was looking for, she might just see her way to topping up my weekly wage packet a little bit, too.

    Harper's Conference Catering served small- to medium-sized all-female staffed businesses, providing their clients' employees with their morning and afternoon refreshments - plus, of course, their special little 'extra' - at their conference/function/event venues.

    On the bench seat of Mrs Harper's catering van, I sat next to my employer, while sitting on my left next to me and beside the passenger-side door respectively were Mrs Harper's two full-time, profit sharing, "at-work fringe benefits" receiving assistants, Zoe and Amanda.

    It was a bit of a squeeze.

    But Zoe - who for some reason hadn't stopped smiling since I'd arrived - didn't seem to mind as due to our employer's adventuresome driving style our thighs pressed together as she leant into me as per the dictates of centrifugal force - or so I thought.

    Both of slim build, Amanda was dark-haired and brown-eyed, while Zoe was blue-eyed, and her shoulder-length slightly wavy hair was blonde with silvery highlights.

    Both of Mrs Harper's junior partners were very attractive, but already I was finding there was something indefinably exciting about Zoe.

    Harper’s Conference Catering, my eponymous employer, apprised me as she hurtled the catering van around another roundabout and causing Zoe to lean right into me (although perhaps, I thought, just a little more than was warranted), was today culminating a one-week contract, at the Brighton City-Break Hotel & Spa.

    Mrs Harper told me how relieved she was, that her dependable trusty life saver Miss Tomkins at the Job Centre had come through for her yet again, finding so quickly a suitable replacement for my absconded predecessor.

    Giving me a meaningful look, Mrs Harper told me that for leaving his employment yesterday right in the midst of her clients' thirty-minute morning coffee break, my predecessor would now be sent to Greystone Prison to undergo a female-friendly refresher course under the female prison officers' expert instruction.

    Because a very dim view indeed was taken of male employees who left their female boss high and dry.

    Especially when if doing so his leaving-his-female-employer-in -the-lurch actions were grievously detrimental to customer satisfaction, blemishing his former company's hard-won reputation and tarnishing his former employer's respected standing amongst her business community colleagues - as might have been the case here, but for the timely damage-limiting intervention of Mrs Harper's well-placed human resources contact.

    Mrs Harper said that her clients had then had to go without their 'special little extra' during their thirty-minute afternoon tea break. And that from having had the use of her company's niche selling-point attraction all week and having grown accustomed to its reliable routine provision, they had been much put out of sorts by its sudden unavailability. Also, they had expressed their concerns that normality of service is re-established by coffee break the next morning.

    My predecessor was in detention now, she said further.

    Accommodated in one of the holding cells in the Community Service Liaison Centre's basement, he was awaiting Securi-Fem prison van transportation to Greystone Prison.

    Escape had been impossible, his attempted evasion of capture, futile, I learned, as my let-down employer Mrs Harper relished the telling of her latest inherently unsuitable male employee's ill-fated bid for freedom.

    Finding my absconded predecessor's hiding place had been easy, and apprehending him, a mere formality.

    Homing in on the pinpoint location signal of his implanted microchip, cane-wielding CSOs had zeroed in on him and subdued him within a minute.

    Mrs Harper paused in her discourse a moment, allowing me to imagine the ensuing scene.

    Zoe nudged me in the side with her elbow, and when I turned to look at her she said, smiling, "Don't look so worried, David - you'll be fine!"

    I hoped Zoe was right.

    But I didn't know what I was going to do when it came down to it; when the moment of truth arrived - when it came to providing Mrs Harper's female clients with their refreshments interludes' 'special little extra'.

    Amanda, sitting next to the catering van's passenger-side door, did nothing to alleviate my growing unease, when she put in, "So far they've all done a runner, haven't they? Some of them have lasted longer than others. But in the end, they all ran away - or just didn't come back the next day. What's the record so far? Ten days, isn't it? I think the average must be two or three days. And do you remember Gerald, who didn't even survive the first coffee break? But I think David's different. He's the one you've been looking for, Mrs Harper. I can tell."

    This new knowledge was most perturbing: More than a year's worth of predecessors had not managed to hold down the job for more than ten days; the average tenure was only two to three days - and one of them hadn't even survived his first morning!

    And I wondered what on earth Amanda was talking about; what she thought she saw in me - why I would be any different.

    It was easy to imagine my immediate predecessor's dread as the CSOs - uniformed in their AFP colours themed blue blazer, green shirt, red skirt, and yellow cotton ankle socks; and shod in their standard AFP-issue black backless thick-rubber soled cloglike shoes - came for him with their canes.

    But, in the same desperate circumstances, I was damned if I would give the CSOs the satisfaction of gleefully running me to earth.

    Glumly though, I wondered how long it would be before I, too was bundled into the back of a Securi-Fem prison van by them to be transported to the all-female run Greystone Prison to be sorted out by the so-called Jailhouse Blue prison officers.

    "David, my cousin Geraldine works at Greystone Prison - she's a Jailhouse Blue," Zoe informed me.

    "Does she, Miss Zoe?" I said respectfully, in the bowed, ultra-courteous manner that as legislated in the AFP Constitution males must always accord females.

    "Yes, and she loves it - Gezza says it's the best job in the world!"

    I didn't know what to say to that, so I didn't say anything. I certainly didn't want to ask Zoe what her cousin "Gezza" liked most about her prison officer job at the country's most infamous AFP institution.

    "And look!" Zoe told me as she lifted her bare left leg and rested her left foot on her right knee, right next to my left knee. "Geraldine sent me these last year, a present for my eighteenth birthday."

    "Um ... they're very nice, Miss Zoe."

    "Yes, aren't they? These are the latest design. The Blues wear them as a part of their uniform. They need to be durable, because the Blues are on their feet an awful lot, patrolling the cells on the Levels. And that's why, although they are so hard-wearing, they are so amazingly comfy, too, made from their specially composited springy foam-rubber. See - because they are quite thin, they are super-flexible," Zoe said, working her darkish-pink painted toes to cause her thin-rubber soled flip-flop to slap against the bottom of her bare heel - slap, slap, slap, slap, slap ...

    "You have no idea, David, the amount of government money the AFP have poured into their design." Slap, slap, slap, slap, slap ...

    "David, do you know why the female prison officers at Greystone Prison have that nickname: the 'Jailhouse Blues'?"

    It took me a moment to respond - a moment, to avert my eyes, from the sight of Zoe's authentic Greystone Prison issue thin-rubber soled flip-flop slapping away against the bare heel of her pale-complexioned shapely foot.

    At my second attempt to speak, because of the sudden catch in my throat, I said, with an apologetic half-smile at my weak attempt at humour, "Is it because they make all of the prisoners, um ... blue, Miss Zoe?"

    "Haha! No - silly! But of course, you're quite right, they do. But no. It's because their uniforms are blue; a pale blue - including these; the latest design ..." Slap, slap, slap, slap, slap ...

    When I looked up again, finally diverting my gaze from the somehow hypnotic sight and the somehow attention-grabbing sound of Zoe's pale blue flexible flip-flop slapping against the bottom of her, quite pronounced, reddish-pink heel, I saw a slight smile forming on Mrs Harper's face.

    Adeptly Mrs Harper guided her catering van at speed around the next roundabout.

    And when the van straightened up, and Zoe eventually sat up straight again, the toe of Zoe's left flip-flop was still touching the side of my left knee.

    I looked down again at Zoe's left flip-flop, the toe of which was resting against the side of my left knee, and rubbing, as though from the motions of the van.

    Rub, rub, rub, rub.

    The sensations evoked within me were far more than seemed warranted from such a minimal, incidental, non-intentional contact.

    My sensitivity to Zoe's albeit indirect flip-flop shod touch was such that my left knee suddenly jerked once involuntarily, uncontrollably. It was as if a low-voltage charge had passed through it to a nerve.

    And then at her slightest movement, it happened again.

    And then again.

    We'd reached Brighton's promenade now and were nearing our destination.

    But as I gazed straight ahead through the catering van's windscreen, such was my growing inner turmoil of confused thoughts and awakening feelings that none of the familiar sights around us was registering.

    I returned my gaze downward and to my left, to where evidently it was wont to be drawn ...

    And, to where Zoe wanted it, to be drawn?

    I looked again, at Zoe's darkish-pink painted toes.

    And now, finally, I wondered:

    To what extent, was the toe of her left flip-flop rubbing against the side of my left knee, caused inadvertently, innocently, just from the motions of the van; and how much, was it due-

    I looked up again, at Zoe.

    And again she favoured me with her smile, her blue eyes twinkling now with I knew not what.

    Zoe's flip-flop nudged the side of my knee again, and this time, there was no question about whether this firmer contact was unintended, incidental - accidental.

    "David," rub, rub, rub, rub ...

    "Do you like the colour of my nail polish?"

    "Um ... I ..."

    "Nice, isn't it? One of our clients gave it to me yesterday as a free sample. In fact, Amanda and I have got lots of them now. This one's called Cerise Sensation."

    ***


    By 09:30 the final day of the SPOILT! Boutiques company’s Annual Conference, held this year at the Brighton City-Break Hotel and Spa, was well underway.

    A leading-brand, high-end luxury goods and personal services company, SPOILT! are in a league of their own when it comes to the shopping experience.

    For discerning females wishing to be stylishly fitted out, they need look no further.

    SPOILT! have branches UK-wide, specialising in anything and everything to do with ladies fashion and personal grooming: clothing; footwear; lingerie and hosiery; hats, scarves, gloves; handbags; jewellery accessories; hair styling and cosmetics.

    Choosing from an extensive array of big-name designer outfit creations and selecting from myriad combinations of to-go-with accoutrements and, while about it, have their face expertly made-up by in-boutique beauticians; hair professionally coiffeured by in-store stylists; hands adeptly tended by in-situ manicurists; feet pampered by Placemented male pedicurists - the place to shop, is SPOILT!

    SPOILT! have boutiques in thirty UK cities, including an extensive, everything-under-one-roof showpiece store in each of the four capitals.

    Ranging from Exeter in south-west England to Aberdeen in north-east Scotland, and from London in south-east England to Belfast in Northern Ireland, SPOILT!'s boutique network is far-reaching, and a store is within reasonable travelling distance of most out-of-towners.

    Attending the Annual Conference were all thirty SPOILT! Boutique manageresses, including Miss Martina Morris, Brighton's boutique manageress.

    As the local agent, Miss Morris was deputed to organise this year's conference facilities and to book same-hotel accommodation for herself and her twenty-nine colleagues - and also to arrange for the provision of their morning and afternoon refreshment breaks requirements.

    The agent who headed this year's SPOILT! Boutiques Annual Conference, though, was the manageress of London's Oxford St's everything-under-one-roof store, Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish.

    All of this I learned from my employer Mrs Hilary Harper, who continued to fill me in and bring me up to speed as we worked.

    Morning coffee-break refreshments were from 10:00 - 10:30.

    The thirty SPOILT! Boutique manageresses would soon be gathering in the Pavillion Lounge - one of the hotel's lounges, that hotel management had helpfully set aside for the five-day duration of their Annual Conference.

    Zoe and Amanda, trained and diplomaed sandwich chefs, were in the kitchen: preparing a variety of delicious fillings with which to make the dainty crustless triangular sandwiches; attractively arranging the plates of cakes and biscuits, and making the coffee - and some tea.

    Mrs Harper said you would almost always have clients who would have a preference for tea at the morning coffee break, and the same would go for coffee at the afternoon tea-break - as had been the case this week. So on the first day, it was always best to be prepared and provide plenty of both; then after that, you'd have a good idea of the lady clients' requirements.

    While Amanda and Zoe exercised their expertise in the kitchen, I worked my muscles, helping Mrs Harper to prepare the four collapsible tables which, left in-situ since Monday, were placed end to end to form a makeshift but presentable serving counter.

    We draped fresh white tablecloths over them; Mrs Harper, making a thing of straightening and aligning each of the overhangs to a nicety. And then I did all of the more onerous, work, putting the items of serving-ware on each of the tables as Mrs Harper directed.

    Mrs Harper told me that we would be repeating this exercise for the afternoon refreshments: After each refreshment break service, the serving tables were all stripped down and the tablecloths replaced with fresh ones.

    While we worked together - Mrs Harper doing all the directing and me doing all of the doing - she told me a bit more about her company.

    I got the sense that she was trying to enthuse me; trying to spark an interest - planting a seed, that she hoped might ferment in me a growing feeling that I wanted to come on board, of my own, mind.

    To this end, Mrs Harper said that she, too, shared Amanda's intuition about me: That I was the male employee she'd been looking for, all this time.

    That, at last, she had found the missing team player.

    The missing male employee, who would not disappoint her as all of the previous incumbents had.

    Who would not let her down, in the damaging, reputation-harming way my absconded predecessor did - or would have, had her clients not been so understanding and forgiving.

    My employer said that, yes, through the readily accommodating agency of the Job Centre, a male, preferably aged under twenty-one, could always be procured and forced to work for her.

    He would have little choice - just as my Careers Adviser, Miss Tonya Tomkins at the Job Centre had given me little choice.

    But, she contended: Wouldn't it be much better for everyone, if only her male employee could overcome his initial resentful sentiments, could surmount his female-friendly negativities - could set aside his differences and disgruntlements - and adapt?

    Because if so - if her male worker evidenced that he was giving it a real go: displaying that he was not merely grasping the nettle but embracing it; demonstrating to her junior partners that he was applying himself not only assiduously but also with commitment - she would be prepared to exert herself to protect her male employee.

    Undertake to shield him - to Expressly Exonerate and Especially Exempt him - to the extent that both her forgiving and favouring female-friendly Constitutional rights and powers as a female citizen and her standing and influence as a businesswoman and employer too would allow, from the worst downsides of male citizenship under the governance of the AFP.

    Again, this got me wondering just what Mrs Harper and Amanda thought they saw in me - why I was 'different' from all of my absconded predecessors.

    Did Zoe see it too?

    That I was their missing "team player"?

    Their "all-important" male employee?

    With the "right qualities"?

    "You could do a lot worse, than to work for me," Mrs Harper told me as I lifted a pile of white plates onto one of the white-tableclothed serving tables. "And to provide my two junior partners Amanda and Zoe, who spend all day on their feet, with their at-work fringe benefits: frequent foot massages. Anyway, think about it, David. Think, about what you might find yourself doing instead."

    I thought about my friend Eds - Eddie Edwards.

    Though he said it was a marked improvement on his Placement assignment with the Domestic Work Detail, Eddie was now stuck in a rut in Brighton City Council's recycling shed, unsuccessful so far in overcoming a variety of difficulties in his ongoing search for another improvement in his employment situation. Not least, official obstructions and interventions. Eddie said he might just as well have been chained and shackled to his designated conveyor belt.

    “David, I can finish off in here now," said Mrs Harper.

    Mrs Harper was putting the finishing, tasteful touches to the presentational arrangement of crockery, cutlery and glassware on the four serving tables; I'd provided the unskilled labour and now any further, fumbly fingered assistance from me could only be detrimental.

    "Breakfast will be all finished with by now, so go through the restaurant, to the kitchen, and help Zoe and Amanda with the refreshments trollies. They'll be at the workstation the hotel is letting us use - or by now, they might be at the still making the tea and coffee."

    "Yes, Mrs Harper."

    "Our lady clients will be here shortly, and I want to be sure we are ready for them - on occasion this week, they've come into the Pavilion Lounge early. I think it's less a serious business conference the boutique manageresses are attending and more a social get-together. They are all very laid-back - and today is their last day, so I bet they'll be letting their hair down even more than usual."

    “Okay, Mrs Harper,” I said, and leaving her to finish off the final preparations on the serving tables in the Pavilion Lounge I made for the hotel's kitchen to help Zoe and Amanda as bid.

    While we'd prepared the tables, Mrs Harper had explained that it was as a favour to her that the hotel manageress, Miss Honeywell, had allocated a hotel lounge for her exclusive use all week - a great, time and work saver, that she didn't always enjoy the benefit of at her venues. And so, thanks to Miss Honeywell's invaluable helpfulness, she'd been able to leave in-situ most of the catering equipment that she and her team had brought in on Monday morning.

    When today's afternoon refreshments were over, though, our catering contract here for the week would be concluded, and so after all of the used cutlery, crockery and glassware had been put through the hotel's dishwasher we would have to pack the items for their return to her business premises.

    She said that upon our return there Zoe and Amanda would be finished for the weekend - but not me.

    I would stay behind, primarily to unload the catering van.

    Putting everything away as per her instructions, in such a way as would make it easier to load up again for an early start on Monday morning.

    This time, for a six-day duration conference catering contract, at another Brighton seafront hotel venue.

    And it was for which, that after I'd unloaded the catering van she wanted to brief me, she said. To give me a little pep talk, to prepare me.

    She wouldn't tell me now what was next up; she would leave that for our tete-a-tete. But she said that if I were to endure until the end of next Saturday unscathed, then I would indeed have survived a baptism of fire.

    Mrs Harper told me that for working Saturdays she would pay me not the AFP-approved male-overtime rate of time and a tenth, but time and a half. And if and when I worked Sundays she would pay not the AFP-recommended, time and a fifth, but double pay.

    My employer Mrs Hilary Harper, I thought, was more generous and fairer-minded than the AFP-run Brighton City Council, where Eddie was unfortunate enough to be employed.

    But as I headed to the kitchen via the hotel's award-winning Seascape Restaurant, I registered nothing of the glorious golden sandy beaches and the panoramic sea views beyond its plate-glass picture windows.

    My employer, having just disclosed to me the exact nature of her two junior partners' at-work fringe benefits - and, more to the point, of which I would be the "frequent" provider - my head was a whirl with the thoughts and images this latest job-description development depicted.

    Absorbing the revelation that in addition to my demeaning designated duties I was also my two female co-workers' foot servant (something my Job Centre interviewer Miss Toya Tomkins forewent to divulge), as I made my way to the swinging doors by which the waiting staff accessed the kitchen those spectacular views went unnoticed and unappreciated.

    When I pushed my way through the entry doors, the scene that greeted me was about half a dozen chefs busy at their various tasks, both male and female but all dressed in the same white jackets and blue-and-white checked pants and wearing tall white hats on their heads and white clog-like shoes on their feet.

    One of whom, who from her age I thought might be a trainee chef, was standing at a cutting-board and making short work of chopping onions.

    I stopped for a moment, admiring her skill.

    Sensing that someone was behind her, she looked up from her work and, when she saw who was standing there watching - or rather, when she saw the staff badge I was wearing - she did a classic double-take.

    She turned back to her cutting-board, but not before I saw the small smile playing at the corners of her lips.

    Working more slowly now, she used the blunt edge of her knife to push some of the chopped onions off the cutting board and into a white plastic container and, as she did so, my peripheral vision caught a movement below.

    I looked down, to see that her right foot was now halfway out of her white clog-like shoe - and, as I watched (as she'd deliberately and purposefully attracted and focused my attention?), it came sliding the rest of the way out and to rest upon it, sole facing upward.

    I stared down, at the female trainee chef's upturned thin white cotton-socked foot; to all appearances, just casually resting for a moment upon its white leather clog-like shoe.

    My eyes were drawn (intentionally directed?) to each in turn of her thin white cotton sock's damp-looking grey patches: the pads of her toes; the ball of her foot; and particularly the bottom of her heel, which was an even darker shade of grey.

    I don't know how long I stared - or even why.

    But I sensed that what she was doing, she was doing deliberately, intentionally, purposefully - with definite, design: She wanted me to look.

    I only stopped staring, when finally she slid her foot all the way back into her white clog-like shoe.

    But now, it was an effort to look up again - to look at her face; to face-to-face engage, from fear of having my suspicion proved right.

    As it was:

    She was smiling.

    Knowingly.

    Knowing, what my prime purpose was, as Mrs Hilary Harper's male employee.

    A more thorough, more comprehensive understanding of my predicament came home to me now as I felt my cheeks burning hot; such was the measure of my acute discomfiture and unspeakable embarrassment.

    The young female chef now turned around to face me appraisingly.

    I had seen how strikingly attractive she was in profile - and now I saw just how full-on beautiful she was.

    Also, I sensed a mutual attraction.

    Now that she was facing me I saw her name tag ID. It read: Sarah - Commis chef.

    My attention was snagged and diverted downward again as I heard something hard and wooden tapping against the tiled kitchen floor; it was the heel of her left, clog-like shoe.

    While she was facing me directly and knowing she had my full and undivided attention, Sarah this time withdrew her left foot from its white clog-like shoe, until her thin white cotton socked toes were resting on its worn-smooth wooden low heel.

    It seemed a casual, affectation. A nonchalant, insignificant gesture.

    But I was in no doubt, by now, that it wasn't.

    It signified something.

    A message.

    Had it been yesterday, I might have plucked up the courage to ask Sarah out.

    But now; now that I had reached for a male what the AFP government termed 'Serviceable Age' - I didn't dare.

    For someone of my AFP-designated societal status to voice such a proposal, composed howsoever carefully and posed howsoever delicately, was just too fraught with potential slapdown and even actionable comebacks.

    Thanks to my Careers Adviser Miss Toya Tomkins at the Job Centre - supplying me to my now employer Mrs Hilary Harper who in turn provided me as her company's niche selling-point attraction 'unique little extra' to her refreshments-breaking female clients - I was now in a whole new normality.

    I felt my face growing yet warmer at my growing realisation and sinking-in appreciation of the underlying fundamentals of my situation; of my more complete, more categorical interpretation of my position.

    And at my recognition, my reconcilement - my resignation - that from now on I would be requested to, required to, expected to - compelled - to-

    “Here, David, make yourself useful - we don't have time to be standing around,” said Amanda admonishingly when she spotted me, busy over by the still with Zoe.

    I'd better get to it, I thought.

    I didn't want to blot my copybook with Mrs Harper's lieutenants - who after all, as Mrs Harper's junior partners were also my superiors and bosses and, I supposed, to some extent my employers too.

    But then Sarah the young female commis chef waylaid me when she said, "Well, David ... you are much better-looking than your predecessor."

    Unabashed and seemingly without inhibition, her eyes brazenly took me in.

    These days - although until yesterday I'd had little personal experience of it - empowered by the AFP, many girls and women were decidedly on the front foot when it came to their dealings with the menfolk.

    Undone by a girl's such open, uninhibited forwardness I looked down in unaccustomed bashfulness myself, to see that Sarah's white-socked toes were now exerting sufficient downward pressure on the edge of the heel of her white clog-like shoe to cause the toe end to tilt up almost vertically.

    "If you like, David, later on, you can come and make yourself 'useful' to me ... When I've finished my early shift, all tired and footsore after being on my feet in this hot kitchen for hours," Sarah suggested/requested/required/compelled.

    The cat had got my tongue.

    Again it was rammed home to me that my exchanges with members of the fairer sex were not dealings among equals. And that what I was engaged in now was a commonplace, everyday example of a female-friendly protocoled Mistress/servant interaction between a service availing superior female and a freely available inferior male.

    All I could do was stare meekly down, watching the play of the kitchen's overhead fluorescent striplights glinting on the shiny metal studs that affixed the white leather upper of Sarah's clog-like shoe as her thin white cotton-socked toes pressed down on its worn-smooth wooden low heel, causing the toe end to tilt steeply upward.

    I realised now that this was a milder example of just exactly the kind of thing that my former school chum Eddie Edwards had repeatedly warned me about:

    "As soon as you turn eighteen and come 'of age' - that's it. There's no holding them back - you'll be fair game. And a lad as good-looking as you had better expect and get used to the womenfolk not only exercising their female-friendly rights as accorded them by the AFP Constitution but, sometimes taking things ... further."

    If my cheeks felt hot before, now they felt as if they were going to self-combust - but it had less to do with the by now noticeably growing heat in the pre-lunch kitchen and more to do with the growing realisation that I found Sara's post-work foot-pampering proposal/command to be not without some ... appeal.

    What was coming over me?

    Was Amanda so very perceptive, after all?

    If so, Amanda knew me better than I knew myself.

    Because until this morning, with Zoe - but no: it started yesterday afternoon, with my Job Centre interviewer Miss Tonya Tomkins; observing, entranced, through the kneehole of her interview desk her shoe-dangling shenanigans - for me, girls' feet had never had any particular attraction.

    Were, unremarkable.

    Bland.

    Unstimulating.

    Had never before held any interest; had any allure.

    Had never evoked, these feelings of-

    "David!"

    More sharply this time and sounding decidedly impatient Amanda called to me again from over by the still.

    Amanda was pointing at the countertop, indicating the tea urn and the three stainless-steel coffee pots that she and Zoe had just filled; apparently, these were the last things to be loaded onto the three trollies.

    I had better get with the programme, I thought, or Amanda would get annoyed with me. And the last thing I needed was any adverse reports reaching Mrs Harper's ears.

    But again Sarah brought me to a sudden standstill, exclaiming, "And wait until I tell the Lunch waitresses!"

    I looked back at Sarah.

    "Oh ... Mrs H hasn't told you yet, then: She had your predecessor Neville massage the Lunch waitresses' feet after their shift. So now you'll have to do it, David. The lunch-shift waitresses have come to look forward to it this week - and they'll love it that Mrs H's new boy is such a dreamboat. Mrs H told our hotel manageress Miss Honeywell that offering our female staff access to her male employee in between refreshments break set-ups and services, was her way of saying thank you for the uninterrupted use of one of our lounges to save her and her girls a lot of valuable time and heaps of hard work."

    "David!" called Amanda again, very sharply this time in her patently growing annoyance. "Did Mrs Harper send you in here to chat up the totty ...? No - I didn't think so. Get yourself over here - and now. Or you'll have me to contend with!"

    Not wanting to keep me from my duties, more hurriedly now Sarah said, "I clock-off at two o'clock, David. Come to the chefs' changing room. You can give me fifteen minutes - or longer if the Lunch waitresses are running late in finishing their shift. And then they'll want you; as I say, at about two-fifteen, after they've relaid the used tables for dinner and done all of the other usual pre-dinner prep. But, until then, David - you'll be mine. Now go!"

    I was literally, lost for words.

    But then, words weren't required. Merely my silent, compliant nod of respectful acquiescence was satisfactory.

    Smiling, secure in the knowledge of having 'booked' (entirely in keeping with my grateful employer's "little thank you" quid pro quo blessing), my post-shift services and confident in my reporting to her in the chefs' changing room as required, Sarah returned to the cutting board and her onion-chopping.

    Amanda, pointing her finger at the tea urn and the three large coffee pots, instructed, "Now hurry up and load these heavy things onto the trollies for us - we don't want our clients to be standing around, waiting for us.”

    "Yes, Miss Amanda," I said respectfully, as I did as ordered and loaded the last heavy items onto the three refreshments trollies. "And I'm sorry for the delay, Miss Amanda. I was ..."

    "It's all right, David," absolved Amanda. "I hadn't realised at first that the commis chef Sara was securing your services for later."

    Zoe said, "It was just the same, David, with your runaway predecessor, Neville, who started on Monday and ran away yesterday. He was very in-demand: waitresses, chambermaids, receptionists - the hotel manageress Miss Honeywell herself, in the comfort and privacy of her office. They all availed themselves of his services, and some of them took frightful advantage of him. Amanda and I hardly had the use of him ourselves - and he was supposed to be our at-work fringe benefit!"

    When she stopped chuckling, Amanda said, "Mrs Harper's stipulation, is that your afternoon availability to the female hotel staff is until two forty-five."

    "Because we might need you ourselves," Zoe explained, "for any last-minute heavy lifting, or whatever, before afternoon refreshments begin. Which we serve from three o'clock until three-thirty."

    And then, bringing back into a sharper focus the issue that was most occupying my mind, in a more businesslike, authoritative tone Amanda said, "And if and when not, David, well ... you are now mine and Zoe's at-work fringe benefit."

    At my merely bowing my head in meek acknowledgement and resigned acceptance of our work relationship, Amanda then gestured for us all to get moving.

    And, setting off for the set-aside Pavilion Lounge she headed the small convoy of three refreshments trollies out through the kitchen's exit batwing service doors and into the Seascape Restaurant.

    Followed by Zoe.

    The soles of whose shapely, pale-complexioned, flip-flop feet, I watched:

    Eyes, riveted to her alternately displayed cream-coloured arches, flashing at her every step; ears, attuned as the bottoms of her pronounced reddish-pink heels slapped against her Jailhouse Blue cousin Gezza's eighteenth-birthday present authentic Greystone Prison issue "specially composited" latest design pale-blue flexible thin foam-rubber soled flip flops.

    Something made me look up, from my almost mesmerised close attention and other fascinated minute observations.

    I looked up, to see that Zoe was staring back at me over her shoulder ... and smiling.

    *


    Our refreshments carts laden with tea and coffee, cakes and biscuits, and an appetising selection of sandwiches to transfer to the four serving tables, Zoe, Amanda and I returned to the set-aside hotel lounge to see that the thirty-strong contingent of SPOILT! Boutique manageresses were indeed already gathering; had been here for some minutes, judging from the hubbub of their animated discussions.

    But as I trailed in behind Amanda and Zoe with the third refreshments trolly, the SPOILT! Boutique manageresses broke off from their gossipy conversations.

    As they set eyes upon me, one by one the clustered small groups' tinkly laughter-punctuated chitchat abruptly fell silent upon their becoming aware of my entrance into the Pavilion Lounge.

    I felt as though I'd walked onto centre stage; that I was the star-turn, standing under the all-revealing glow of artfully trained spotlights.

    All eyes were on me.

    An audience of thirty, attractive young women, looking Neville's successor up and down in candid appraisal.

    Inspecting their replacement refreshments breaks interludes' 'little something extra', the thirty SPOILT! Boutique manageresses finally broke the near hear-a-pin-drop silence that had descended to impart to each other their first-impression opinions - which, to judge from their nodding heads, smiling faces and suggestive gestures, their verdicts were far from unfavourable.

    Apparently, I had more than met their expectations; far exceeded their hopeful anticipations.

    Zoe, smiling, held the palms of her hands in front of my face as though gratefully warming them at some blazing heat source.

    Because yes: my face must have been redder than ever, under the nodding, smiling scrutiny of the glamorous assemblage.

    Mrs Hilary Harper was smiling, too, making no effort to disguise either her delight at her coffee-breaking clients' evident thumbs-up reception of my introduction or her proud responsibility for my provision.

    Happy that I had been introduced and paraded to good effect and satisfied that my purpose of presence was now firmly established, my employer indicated that I now take my place by her side.

    Under the watchful eyes of both Mrs Harper, standing on my left at one of the end tables, and Zoe to my right, I stood behind another of the four white-tableclothed serving tables from which each of us would dispense coffee from the three large coffee pots. Amanda, standing to Zoe's right, was stationed at the other end table at the tea urn.

    To spare our lady clients the tiresome inconvenience of waiting at the start of service, it was all hands to the pumps; all four of us, pouring cups of tea and coffee as the SPOILT! Boutique manageresses proffered their cups to us to fill.

    Once served with the hot beverage of their choice (or having opted instead for a bottle of mineral water or fruit juice), these supremos of the fashion industry took a plate from one of the tables and selected their food choices from the abundance of tempting offerings.

    For the culmination of their five-day conference, the SPOILT! Boutique manageresses' dress code was relaxed - or casual/informal.

    The only stipulation was that they wear the company T-shirts specially made for them for the occasion.

    Their specially made T-shirts came in a variety of light pastel shades and full-on bright colours. And emblazoned on the front of the T-shirts was their company's famous and readily recognisable logo: SPOILT! - FOR CHOICE!

    First at my table for a cup of coffee, her name tag informed me, was the conference heading SPOILT! Boutique manageress of London's Oxford St's everything-under-one-roof showpiece store herself, Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish.

    A picture of elegance, her hair and make-up were impeccable. Even the golden-yellow T-shirt she wore seemed carefully chosen, serving to compliment her olive-complexioned skin.

    Manageress of her chain's premier store, in her mid-twenties, Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish was the perfect embodiment and the ideal advertisement for SPOILT! Boutiques.

    Glamorous, gorgeous, blue-eyed and blonde, the unwavering directness of her appraising gaze as she waited for me to pour and serve her cup of coffee was utterly unnerving.

    "I absolutely must congratulate you, Mrs Harper, on your new acquisition. How splendid! I'm sure he will do us just nicely," opined Miss Connaught-Cavendish, voicing her approval and pleasure.

    Zoe gave me a meaningful little double dig in the ribs with her elbow, and I felt my face lighting up anew.

    "Thank you, Miss Connaught-Cavendish," replied my employer, beaming. "I'm so glad you approve of David! Because - though I have a most sympathetic and supportive contact at the Job Centre in Miss Tomkins, who has come through for me repeatedly - unfortunately, at such short notice one can't always rely on the suitability and much less the quality of the quick, needs-must emergency replacement Miss Tomkins can supply."

    "Well, Mrs Harper, I think your Miss Tomkins has certainly done you proud this time, with David! In fact, with just the unfortunate exception of yesterday afternoon to which you allude, when sadly David's predecessor felt the need to terminate his employment with you with immediate effect and ran out on us mid-service, you have looked after us marvellously all week."

    "Ah ... yes. If it's any consolation, I have seen to it that Neville will be dealt with to the full extent of the law - as we speak, he might well be on his way to enjoy the famed hospitalities of the Jailhouse Blue female prison officers of Greystone Prison. And again, I'm afraid I can only apologise, for Neville's unpardonable-"

    "Oh - not to worry, Mrs Harper; these things can happen. It was just a little glitch, which my colleagues and I have already forgiven and forgotten. Because speaking on behalf of SPOILT! Boutiques, I can promise you that in addition to availing ourselves of your splendid refreshments breaks catering services in future, all of our manageresses will be sure to reference glowingly to other potentially interested colleagues your ... 'little-something-extra'."

    "Oh - how kind! And ... well, speaking of which, why not be the first, Miss Connaught-Cavendish, to avail yourself of David?"

    "Yes. Why not, indeed? I should be delighted, Mrs Harper. Most delighted!"

    Mrs Harper then turned to me, smiling encouragement as a prompt.

    "Um ... David, the initial rush seems to be calming down a bit now, so I think Amanda, Zoe and I can manage from here ... So, would you like to go along now, with Miss Connaught-Cavendish?"

    I looked at Zoe, and she nodded back at me, smiling.

    So this was it, then.

    And once again, I was literally, lost for words.

    But then, words weren't required.

    Merely my silent, compliant nod of respectful acquiescence was satisfactory.


    'Tea, Coffee, and Me' continues in Ch. 2 of 3.

  2. #2
    Apprentice Footsniffer
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    Tea, Coffee, and Me - Ch. 2 of 3.

    Ch. 2: David Manners must mind his manners.


    I felt that Miss Tonya Tomkins, who yesterday had been my school-leaver's Job Centre interviewer and as such was empowered to decree the direction my career path should take, had callously thrown me in at the deep end; given me a sink or swim introduction into the world of work.

    But that was not the last that I would see, was in fact only the beginning of my involvement, with the ardent Authoritarian Female Party apparatchik and fanatical 'female-friendly' idealist.

    Miss Tomkins, who to all intents and purposes had supplied me as an emergency replacement to my now employer Mrs Hilary Harper of Harper's Conference Catering, was now my Case Worker, whose desk I must report to on a fortnightly basis for my Male-Worker's Conduct Revue.

    And, as in due course I would come to find out, Miss Tonya Tomkins would have other ways, by which she would make me tread water to keep my head above the surface.

    ***


    While we'd tableclothed and prepared the serving tables in the set-aside Pavilion Lounge of the Brighton City-Break Hotel and Spa, Mrs Hilary Harper had told me that if I could hang in there and endure in my 'specialised' role until the end of next Saturday, I will indeed have survived a baptism of fire.

    Upon her mentioning that next week's catering contract duration was Monday - Saturday and would be at another Brighton promenade hotel venue, I'd asked her for a bit more info regarding our upcoming clients; asked who they were and what they were about?

    But as to that, she had been decidedly unforthcoming.

    Cagey, reluctant to enlarge, seemingly guarding against imparting to me any further information and risking let slip something that for the moment she'd rather keep from me, my employer said she'd tell me after work today who was next up in her diary on Monday.

    But that was a long way off.

    Today was only Friday; the first day of my full-time employment with Harper's Conference Catering, which served small- to medium-size all-female staffed businesses - and I was yet to face my opening skirmish.

    For now, gathered for their final 10:00 - 10:30 coffee break of the week, twenty-nine SPOILT! Boutique manageresses looked on with interest and anticipation as their replacement refreshments break 'little something extra' obediently and compliantly and with eyes respectfully downcast followed at the heels of the thirtieth - their Head of Conference representative, Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish.

    At least, I thought, as resignedly I followed Miss Connaught-Cavendish to where her coffee drinking colleagues were circling to create an arena, it was of some consolation to know that with the windowless privacy of the Pavilion Lounge that had been set aside by hotel management for the Monday - Friday duration of the SPOILT! Annual Conference, I wouldn't need to worry about being gawked at by hotel guests and other perambulating patrons.

    Not that I didn't have other, niggling worries; discomposing concerns, other than those in the 10:00 - 10:30 coffee break immediacy.

    Sarah, one of the hotel's commis chefs, had instructed me to report to the chefs' changing room later to give her a post-shift foot massage.

    When they had finished work, I was then to afford the same post-shift pleasurable and relief-giving attentions to the Lunch Shift waitresses.

    Also, sometime in the afternoon, I was to report to the office of the hotel manageress, Miss Honeywell.

    Thus, as free time permitted between refreshments break intervals, through my foot services to female hotel staff I would satisfy my employer Mrs Hilary Harper's side of her quid pro quo understanding; her reciprocal favour agreement with the hotel manageress Miss Honeywell, for her exclusive SPOILT! Boutique Annual Conference five-day durational use of the capacious Pavilion Lounge.

    Of course, then there was the other, little matter, of which above all else was getting me in a tizzy as relentlessly it played on my mind.

    The first, of my upcoming "frequent" foot massages for Mrs Harper's two nineteen-year-old junior partner five-percent-of-company-net-profits-sharing assistants, Amanda and Zoe: the frequent foot massages, which were one of my job-condition duties and their at-work fringe benefit.

    All of these thoughts, though, of the imminent line-up of nerve-wracking bargain-fulfilling assignations and dutiful co-worker attentiveness, were all but displaced from my mind by the even more unsettling matters in the immediacy; by what was about to ensue in the here and now.

    As, I supposed that in their line of business it would be a definite plus, all of the thirty Annual Conference attending SPOILT! Boutique manageresses were above-average attractive; many of them, most appreciably so.

    But, at least from these initial impressions, I thought that, with her blonde hair and blue eyes, flawless olive complexion, terrific figure and, from my leg man's perspective, her fabulous legs, Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish was perhaps the most glamorous as well as the most standout, charismatic personage.

    For a moment, I regarded with awed admiration bordering on adoration the woman standing with her back to me and who, in her heels, stood way taller.

    Rarely, if ever, had I set eyes upon a pair of legs so perfect as these; Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish's high-fashion high heels, setting her golden-toned calves off to breathtaking advantage.

    Seeing her dressed in her final-day-of-conference skin tone complimenting golden-yellow T-shirt, and her SPOILT! Boutique fashion items of which as a store manageress she enjoyed a generous personal allowance: above-the-knee red skirt; and, of the same bright-red colour as her stylishly-cut short skirt, a pair of expensive-looking high-heeled pumps - I almost felt honoured to be her 'attendant'.

    Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish did not deign to give me my cue by word of mouth but merely expected me to interpret it by dint of her now stationary stance, which, indeed, did seem to suggest a particular expectancy.

    Like the proverbial light bulb flash of sudden understanding, belatedly the explanation dawned on me now in all of its glaring obviousness as to why my Job Centre interviewer Miss Tonya Tomkins had looked me over with that air of speculative appraisal, before finally permitting me to sit. The reason for her calculating look, that, other than piquing my curiosity, I had thought it nothing of portent; of ill omen.

    Which just goes to show how wrong; just how naively unsuspecting a person can be, of a Job Centre interviewer's agenda.

    For I understood, all too well, now, the whys and the wherefores of Miss Tomkins's apparent but, to me, inexplicable pre-interview thoughtful considerations and mental box-ticking assessments.

    Looking back at it now from Miss Tomkins's viewpoint, I could see it all.

    Standing at 5' 4", the short but stocky stature of the intimidated and therefore easily manipulable eighteen-year-old school leaver and Career Classification Assessment interviewee standing before her, satisfied to a rare nicety the optimum physical requirements of the just-in urgent job vacancy that she was especially keen on filling as expeditiously as possible.

    It all made sense now.

    So, this was it, then.

    I looked back, at my employer Mrs Hilary Harper, and at her two junior partner assistants, Amanda and Zoe.

    The three of them, each stationed behind one of the four white-tableclothed and pushed-together tables of our makeshift but presentable serving counter to pour cups of coffee or tea for our lady clients, smiled back at me.

    Mrs Harper's smile of encouragement seemed a little strained, and I understood why. She had a lot riding on what was going to happen in the coming thirty minutes - or rather: how I reacted, to what was about to ensue.

    Amanda's smile was more confident, reflecting her previously professed intuitive certainty as to my suitability for their company's key, male-worker role: provider of their niche selling-point attraction 'little something extra'.

    Zoe's smile, as usual, made me thrill to it. There was something in her smile that I couldn't read; couldn't define, couldn't decipher, but seemed full of suggestion, of innuendo.

    I remembered sitting next to Zoe on the bench seat of Mrs Harper's catering van on our short journey across town to the hotel.

    Zoe, telling me all about the eighteenth-birthday present she'd received last year from her prison officer cousin, Geraldine ("Gezza"): her authentic AFP-funded no-expense-spared leading-technology designed and manufactured Greystone Prison issue flip-flops, as worn by the notorious institution's infamous all-female prison officer staff, the 'Jailhouse Blues'.

    Zoe, her left leg crossed over her right knee, the toe of her left flip-flop resting against the side of my left knee. And my eyes, captured by her darkish-pink ('Cerise Sensation') painted toes, sending pulses of tingly sensation right through me as with an almost hypnotic resonance they caused her birthday-present thin flexible foam-rubber soled flip-flop to slap against the bottom of her bare heel - slap, slap, slap, slap, slap ...

    Zoe was growing on me, and fast.

    By now, more than anything I wanted to win Zoe's approval and earn her regard: not just do what was expected of me anyway, do my bit to help boost her junior partnership's entitlement five percent share of Harper's Conference Catering's net profits, but to please her for pleasings' sake.

    Stirred by these motivating imperatives, thus I was galvanised; fortified with the resolve to compliantly assume my 'key-role' position - not just with the good graces of a sense-of-duty stoicism but with a readiness born of a fast-growing emotional goal aspiration that barely an hour ago pre-Zoe I would have laughed off as pie-in-the-sky preposterous.

    My loins thus girded, I walked forward, closing the gap between myself and the charismatic Head of Conference; close enough, to discern and to appreciate Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish's subtle yet heady fragrance - no doubt, one of her selections from the SPOILT! Boutique perfumery range.

    And now, directly behind the fragrance-exuding expectantly standing conference-heading SPOILT! Boutique manageress, I sat down on the carpet of the set-aside Pavilion Lounge of the Brighton City-Break Hotel and Spa and, spreading my legs wide apart in an accommodating 'V', thus made myself conveniently available and my face easily reachable - as her refreshments-break facial footrest.

    Upon seeing my white-shorted bare legs and trainered feet dutifully opened accommodatingly on either side of her, London's Oxford Street's premier everything-under-one-roof SPOILT! Boutique manageress adjusted her standing position in preparing to avail herself of the niche selling-point attraction 'little something extra' creature comfort of which it was now incumbent upon me to provide for my employer Mrs Hilary Harper's female clientele.

    It appeared, though, from her tottery unsteadiness of balance that Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish's ensuing extrication of her right foot from the confines of her rather tight-fitting spike-heeled shoe was not just less than easeful but positively perilous.

    It struck me that merely making myself conveniently available and my face easily reachable might still leave something to be desired; that in fact there was much room for improvement. And, occurring to me also that my critically observing employer Mrs Hilary Harper and her two closely watching junior partner profits-sharing assistants Amanda and Zoe would expect me to use my initiative and not just sit there and extend every courtesy out of reverent politeness but offer every assistance to prevent disaster, I did precisely that.

    I took it upon myself, to take hold of and hold down for Miss Connaught-Cavendish, not just for easefulness' sake, but for the in-the-balance safety of her off balance person too, the four-inch spike-heel of her red leather pump until safely she'd eased free her heel.

    If Miss Connaught-Cavendish approved of my unprompted assistance or appreciated my thoughtful and considerate attentiveness in her interests, this was unevidenced in that she neither verbally expressed or in any way gave the slightest gestured indication.

    Having extended, said thoughtful off-my-own-bat stance-stabilising facilitation, I sat still.

    Sat stock-still, and watched as the freshly unshod pale-olive complexioned sole of the SPOILT! Boutique Head of Conference manageress's right foot reached behind her and upward, towards my resigned if not reconciled and compliant if not wholly amenable face, which would, nonetheless for all of my heretofore reluctance and reserve, now almost willingly, for Zoe, serve as her refreshments-break 'little something extra' facial footrest.

    Unsighted and unguided, the navigational guesswork of Miss Connaught-Cavendish's approach was unconfident and clumsy but, albeit, on a decidedly wayward course, she got there in the end.

    And, after minutely adjusting the sole of her resting right foot on my conveniently positioned face for surer purchase and maximum comfort upon said eventual successful completion of her blind 'docking', sighing with pleasure, Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish leant back into me in blissful relaxation.

    From the other twenty-nine closely encircling and avidly observing SPOILT! Boutique manageresses, I heard their unmistakable murmurings, amused chuckling and even excited exclamations of vicarious enjoyment in anticipating their own, imminent participation.

    Because unquestionably they, too, were immensely looking forward to taking their turn with their refreshments-break facial footrest. And if not now, during the 10:00 - 10:30 coffee break, then I was given to believe, from the manageresses' candidly expressed sentiments and frankly disclosed intentions towards myself, those who missed out now would be sure not to during their 3:00 - 3:30 tea break.

    In my head, I quickly did the math.

    With two thirty-minute refreshments breaks totalling sixty minutes, this meant that the personal facial-footrest allowance of each of the thirty SPOILT! Boutique manageresses averaged out at two minutes.

    On the face of it, as it were, perhaps, not a lot of time; indeed, the clock would be ticking a lot faster for the users of said service than for its provider.

    Presiding over my initiation at the suggestion of my employer Mrs Hilary Harper, Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish, the first of the Annual Conference attending SPOILT! Boutique manageresses to avail herself of their emergency replacement refreshments-break 'little something extra', settled in-situ.

    Obliging me to discern, if not appreciate - and albeit not, actually deliberately and intentionally and hence meanly and maliciously, but merely incidentally and consequentially and therefore blithely and indifferently - the decidedly less subtly fragranced and even headier aroma of her under- and in-between-the-toes foot scent.

    Though she occasioned me to strain my neck muscles to do so, I supported her steadily testing weight and increasingly relaxing posture as sturdily and as accommodatingly as any item of non-olfactory sensory footrest furniture.

    And I might well have been just an unusual piece of footrest furniture, for all the notice that the coffee-breaking high-end fashion store manageresses and fashionistas themselves, took of me from that moment on as they resumed their chitchatting, drank their coffee and ate their fancy sandwiches.

    As I sat there, listening to them talk, catching snippets and snatches of multiple conversations on a variety of girl-talk topics but mostly to do with their fashion-world work, almost all of my sight was taken up by the pale-olive complexioned sole of Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish's rather broad right foot:

    The bottom of her bare heel, planted in the centre of my forehead; her arch, right in front of my eyes; the ball of her foot, pressing down on the bridge of my nose; and the undersides of her nose-clutching and nostril-encapturing toes, ensuring her a steadier if not rock-steady single-footed stance.

    But I was not so entirely blinkered and my vision so completely limited by the bronzed breadth of Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish's facial-footrest availing right foot, that I could not see two of her colleagues when they took up very similar positions close to either side of her and with their backs to me. The one to her left, wearing a final-day-of-conference electric blue T-shirt, the one to her right, a crimson T-shirt. Due to my considerably compromised vision, though, further, more elaborate details of description at that time as to the SPOILT! Boutique skirt and shoe numbers the two of them wore, were somewhat obscured.

    Carefully, not to risk upsetting the potentially precarious nature of their Head of Conference's single-footed stiletto-heeled stance, syncing their movements, the two high-end fashion store manageresses reached their now unshod foot behind them and upwards. The one on Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish's left, to rest the top of her right foot on my left shoulder; the one on her right, to similarly rest her left foot, sole-up, upon my right shoulder.

    Because the three of them were in such close, side by side proximity, it was quite apparent that, if it came to the two shoulder-footrest availing manageresses wishing to rest their other foot, they would need to swap positions.

    The lower leg of the two shoulder-availing manageresses was approximately level with the floor: the lower leg and foot of the electric blue T-shirted manageress, sloping slightly downward; the lower leg and foot of the crimson T-shirted manageress, sloping slightly upward.

    Ultimately, I realised, these upward- or downward-sloping angles would be resultant of interdependent twin factors: the shoulder-footrest availing female client's height; and the amount of elevation afforded by the heels of her shoes.

    One thing I noticed straight away, and with no small measure of relief, was that at least to some degree I was now able to relax my straining and already by now tiring neck muscles. For such was the anchoring/stabilising effect of the combined settled weight on my shoulders of the two manageresses' resting legs and feet, which were surprisingly heavy.

    Nonetheless, moments later my head lunged forward precipitously as I was instantly relieved of all said neck muscle stress and strain entirely when with unexpected suddenness Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish removed her right foot from her facial footrest and returned it to its shoe.

    But I knew my reprieve would be very shortlived: this, merely preparatory to Miss Connaught-Cavendish's switchover; standing on her right foot, and repeating the restful and relaxing refreshments-break 'little something extra' ritual, continuing with her left foot.

    Taking the opportunity this brief change-over interval afforded, I looked first to my left shoulder, and then to my right shoulder. Took a moment, to look at the shoulder-perched, sole-upwards foot of each of the two foot-resting manageresses who were, albeit inadvertently, helpfully anchoring me in position and, albeit incidentally, mercifully mitigating the wearisome workload of my primary function.

    The manageress to Miss Connaught-Cavendish's left, who was wearing the electric blue T-shirt, and resting her right foot sole-upwards on my left shoulder, was wearing seam-reinforced stockings of a thick, elaborately patterned navy blue material, of which the plain dark unpatterned sole almost invisibly veiled the bottom of her slightly downwards-sloping foot.

    Her similarly single-footed postured colleague, wearing the crimson T-shirt, and who was resting her left foot sole-upwards on my right shoulder, wore stockings of a type I would describe as starkly contrasting. Unadorned, white, almost transparent material, so gossamer thin as to lay bare and reveal as though naked every last little detail of her scantily enshrouded slightly upwards sloping sole.

    With my head thus craned to my right, I was slightly unsettled to observe that at just after ten o'clock in the morning, the crimson T-shirted manageress's ultra-thin white stocking was already showing the first signs of perspiration. The places of discolouration: the heel, the ball of the foot, and the under-the-toes area; shades of grey, varying from off-white at the arch, to a sweat moistened dove-grey under the toes.

    I was occasioned further unease, at the thought that, come the SPOILT! Boutique manageresses' 3:00 - 3:30 tea break in another five hours' time, I might be pressed into her refreshments-break footrest service again - and she might not use one of my shoulders ...

    From her end of their coffee-break conversation, as, seemingly oblivious to me by now as in her pleasantly lilting Welsh tones she chatted with Miss Connaught-Cavendish and the electric blue T-shirted manageress, it emerged that the name of the wearer of the crimson T-shirt and the gossamer thin, almost see-through white stockings, was Julie. Apparently, she ran Cardiff's SPOILT! Boutique.

    And, similarly gleaned from eavesdropping on the threesome's fashion-world insiders' surprisingly interesting discussion, I also learned that Julie's co shoulder availing colleague, wearing the electric blue T-shirt and the expensive-looking seam-reinforced navy blue stockings, was Maxine, and she ran the Bristol store.

    I was then distracted by a movement below.

    Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish, having reinserted her right foot into her shoe, was apparently having the same difficulty again in easing free now the heel of her left foot from its rather tight-fitting red leather pump.

    Bearing in mind the stability and therefore the safety of the two shoulder-footrest utilising manageresses Maxine and Julie, carefully, I leaned forward ... and then leaned forward a little bit more.

    And, upon finding that the two shoulder-footrest availing manageresses' resting legs and feet were of a minimal impediment to my forward-leaning movement and, more importantly, said movement was not perilous to themselves, again I took it upon myself to take hold of and hold down for Miss Connaught-Cavendish her shoe's four-inch spike-heel. Repeating, said off-my-own-bat employer-pleasing, dutiful initiative-taking, solicitous assistance-extending, disaster-preventing single-footed stance facilitation.

    My thoughtful, considerate, proactive attentiveness, again eliciting from her no sign of acknowledgement and still less indication of thanks, the manageress of London's Oxford Street's premier SPOILT! Boutique now reached her bare pale-olive complexioned left foot behind her and upwards, to once again avail herself of her refreshments-break facial footrest.

    By now I was starting to get the hang of this aspect of my new job and, this time, I didn't constrain Miss Connaught-Cavendish to do all of the work herself, post-switchover.

    Watching the uncertain, haphazard approach this time of Miss Connaught-Cavendish's unsighted and unguided left bare sole, it occurred to me that there was still much room for receptive improvement.

    From a glance at their faces, I was given to believe also that my anxiously watching employer Mrs Hilary Harper and her two critically observing assistants Amanda and Zoe, having witnessed me use my initiative once, were expecting me not just to sit there but to respond proactively again and implement improvements unsupervised.

    And so, in another act of employer pleasing self-initiative, I took it upon myself to lean forward and, manoeuvring my forehead to receive early and to accommodate with pinpoint exactitude the arrival of the bottom of the Head of Conference's erratically oncoming bare heel, I thus facilitated her blind 'docking'.

    Just as she'd done first with her right foot, with exaggerated care Miss Connaught-Cavendish now centred the ball of her left foot on the bridge of my nose; her clutching, nostril encapturing toes, testing and retesting for optimum stability, ensuring maximum security of single-footed balance, pre-commitment.

    And upon seeing, after repeated trial-testing, the minor and fussy but crucial pre-commitment adjustment performed to their Head of Conference's complete contentment (and to their own, peace of mind), considerately the two shoulder-footrest availing manageresses Maxine and Julie safely ceded their positions to two impatiently waiting colleagues.

    Following the synced, risk-avoidant example of their colleagues Maxine and Julie, promptly these two acceding manageresses eagerly assumed their shoulder-footrest availing positions.

    Simultaneously the lime green T-shirted manageress, on Miss Connaught-Cavendish's left, rested her right foot on my Maxine-vacated left shoulder; and the lemon T-shirted manageress, on Miss Connaught-Cavendish's right, similarly rested her left foot, sole-up, on my Julie-rescinded right shoulder.

    I then felt two grasping, tugging hands, yanking the tail of my shirt right out of my community servant-style elasticated-waisted white work shorts. (These, the distinctive, demeaning workwear issued to me at the Community Service Liaison Centre, where I'd reported to upon leaving the Job Centre after my Career Classification Assessment interview and consequent career-path decree by Miss Tonya Tomkins).

    I then felt two presences: the owners of those shirt-snatching hands, who were backing into me; settling into their positions right up close to me in a manner that in any other circumstances would strike one as an intimacy of unseemly nature. And, in my peripheral vision, albeit imperfectly I could see two more SPOILT! Boutique manageresses, positioning themselves just as close, on either side of me.

    It occurred to me that, surely by now, if fourteen of her colleagues were to partake equally and fairly of their morning coffee-break 'little something extra', Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish was overrunning now and by a considerable margin her allotted two-minute allowance in this, their favourite and most coveted of refreshments-break footrest positions.

    Either the Annual Conference attending SPOILT! Boutique manageresses hadn't done the math, or they weren't rigid timekeepers: I'd seen no stopwatch in evidence and, from what I could see, none of the other twenty-nine manageresses seemed eager to raise the equal-opportunity time allowance issue with their Head of Conference and pull her up about her selfish overrun.

    Insinuating their way under the tail of my untucked shirt, I felt the invasive soles of two feet, both of them bare and both of them startlingly cold, as, gratefully warming them on their side of my spine, the two shirt-pulling manageresses took up their bare-back availing footrest/foot-warming positions.

    The other two manageresses to either side of me were not barefoot but wore what felt to me like nylons or tights. As, contenting themselves with resting their foot in the natural recesses of my sides: the bottoms of their heels, taking advantage of the yielding but supportive flesh beneath my ribcage; the ball of their foot and their toes, aided by the slight foothold bumps of my hips, they partook of their coffee-time indulgence.

    To my surprise - no: to my absolute, flabergastation - I now wondered if I would, after all, prove Amanda's intuitive assertion correct and realise my employer Mrs Hilary Harper's fervently stated hopes that, at last, they had found their missing team player.

    Wondered, if I could, find it within myself, if unable to radically change my entrenched AFP-antipathetic attitude, then to at least put on hold my female-friendly ideological disagreements and disgruntlement.

    Pondered, if, rather than follow in the ill-fated footsteps of my long string of short-serving sullen and begrudging runaway forerunners, I could put aside my resentments and reservations and learn to - to use my employer Mrs Hilary Harper's word: "adapt".

    Considered, if in fact I actually could, occupy with the composure of mind on my part and an agreeable consistency of submissive attitude and satisfactory quality of performance on theirs, the position of their key, male worker. Be the compatible male employee, who unlike all of my inherently unsuited and ultimately unadaptable predecessors would not flee and let them down but remain and serve them well.

    Reflected, if through both the good offices and the as yet unrevealed but naked self-interests of their sympathetic contact and my ulterior-motived now Case Worker and figure of authority liaison at the Job Centre, Miss Tonya Tomkins, it was problem solved, for my employer and her two five-percent-of-net-profits sharing junior assistants, Amanda and Zoe.

    Wondered - if aided by the motivating factors of my employer's promised protective patronage which would shield me from the worst downsides for a male of AFP governance, and my fast-growing desire to please Zoe, I could, acquire the non-rebellious reconciled commitment and the willingness of temperament prerequisite to my male-worker role:

    Assume the heretofore unsatisfactorily tenanted mantle of my employer Mrs Hilary Harper's catering company's niche selling-point attraction 'little something extra': Be her reverently polite, unfailingly compliant, assistance-extending facial-footrest 'docking' facilitator and general use footrest/foot-comforter to her refreshments-breaking female clientele.

    For the sensations, engendered by the two manageresses standing behind me and rubbing their bare feet on 'their' side of my bare back and of the other two manageresses' nyloned feet on my sides with their heels digging in and their toes clutching my hips for enhanced surety of foothold, were far from unpleasant.

    In fact, the combination of the two manageresses' cool, exploratively roaming and luxuriating bare feet rubbing on either side of my back and the other two manageresses' warm, nyloned soles on my flanks - not least, their absentminded toe-scrunching on my hips as they chitchatted - were of an undreamed-of sensual pleasure.

    So much so, that it was all I could do not to laugh; not to giggle like a fool into the pale-olive complexioned bare left sole of the facial-footrest availing Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish.

    The SPOILT! Boutique manageress and Head of Conference was undoubtedly by now seriously overrunning to the diminution of her twenty-nine store manageress refreshments-breaking colleagues her allotted two-minute time allowance, selfishly far exceeding her fair and equal share and thereby iniquitously reducing theirs.

    But what business was that of mine? I was just their foot furniture, capable of accommodating sturdily and comfortably up to seven.

    I was dismissing these disrespectful ideas and re-establishing in their stead my Zoe-inspired acceptance-of-purpose mindset, when, as though reading with utmost reproval my albeit fleeting thoughts and responsively admonishing me to keep a civil tongue in my mind, Miss Connaught-Cavendish suddenly removed her left foot from her facial footrest.

    As before, when preparatory to her standing-foot switchover she'd removed her relaxing right foot with similar sudden heedlessness, despite the stabilising influences of my two shoulder-availing 'anchors' my head lunged forward as instantly my neck was relieved of the constant stress and strain of sturdily and comfortably supporting her single-footed luxuriating posture.

    Albeit reluctantly, the two shoulder-footrest availing manageresses now considerately relinquished their positions, too. The left-shoulder footrest availing, lime green T-shirted manageress (who, from eavesdropping I learned was Samantha, manageress of Sheffield's SPOILT! Boutique); and the right-shoulder footrest availing, lemon T-shirted manageress (Sonia, manageress of Edinburgh's SPOILT! Boutique), making said shoulder-footrest facilities available to other coffee-breaking colleagues.

    Finally relinquishing the facial footrest, Miss Connaught-Cavendish found it necessary to put her hand on top of my head and grab a good fistful of my hair to help keep her balance as now she reinserted her left foot into her four-inch heeled red leather pump.

    As she did so, the Head of Conference ran her eyes over the gathering of refreshments-breaking manageresses and, spotting the one she apparently sought, said brightly, "Martina! Come over here now and take your turn, of our little something extra. I must say, there's no comparison with his absconded predecessor, Neville, who, clearly his heart wasn't in it in that he would sullenly and begrudgingly try to avoid rather than pleasingly and welcomingly receive. In wonderfully pleasing contrast you'll find David, our emergency replacement, who Mrs Harper did ever so well to procure for us at such short notice through her sympathetic Job Centre contact, Tonya, uncommonly amenable and incredibly well-behaved!"

    "Hazel, I don't mind if I do!" eagerly replied the local agent deputed to organise this year's Annual Conference's facilities, same-hotel accommodation, and refreshments-breaks provision - the manageress of Brighton's SPOILT! Boutique, Miss Martina Morris.

    Stepping inside the accommodating 'V' of my widely spread apart white-shorted bare legs and trainered feet, Miss Martina Morris, wearing her final-day-of-conference orange T-shirt, and her above-the-knee navy blue skirt and kitten-heeled white mules, items that, as a SPOILT! Boutique fashionwear store manageress she enjoyed a generous personal allowance, prepared to take up her facial-footrest availing position.

    Unlike her prized-position availing predecessor, Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish, Miss Martina Morris had no such difficulties in extricating first her unconfined right foot from her kitten-heeled white mule and therefore was not in need of my heel-holding balance steadying assistance.

    But, unsighted and unguided, as Miss Morris waywardly reached her right foot behind her and upwards in the general direction of my conveniently positioned and compliantly waiting face, the receptive inadequacy was apparent again and, it was evident that she, as well, would benefit from my proactivity.

    And so, in my employer-approving and Amanda-gratifying and Zoe-pleasing demonstration of assistance-extending self-initiative, carefully I tracked the uncertain approach of Brighton's SPOILT! Boutique manageress's pale-complexioned sole and, leaning forward, I manoeuvred my forehead to facilitate with pinpoint precision the 'docking' with the bottom of her erratically oncoming bare heel, thus aiding her blind, haphazard navigation.

    "Oh, my!" exclaimed Miss Martina Morris delightedly at such pleasing ease of 'docking' after I'd eased my way back to a straight-backed, sturdily supportive posture; though as yet, she was not ready to fully commit the relaxed weight of her single-footed stance.

    "I see exactly, what you mean, Hazel!" Miss Morris enthused.

    "Didn't I tell you, Martina!" gushed Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish. "Isn't he just a perfect sweetie?"

    Well, well, well, this was a turn up for the books! I could hardly believe my ears. Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish, who up until a moment ago had neither even remotely suggested, let alone, expressed such sentiments, heaping such fulsome praise on my head!

    "Steady on, Hazel, don't get carried away. He is, after all, here to do a job of work and provide a good service," said Miss Martina Morris, deflating my balloon.

    Some of the gathered encircling refreshments-breaking manageresses spoke up to express their agreement with Miss Morris:

    "It was this - or in all likelihood, he would have gone to Greystone Prison, enroled on a female-friendly course. And, compared to the Jailhouse Blues, we're pussycats," said one manageress, who was wearing a pink final-day-of-conference T-shirt, and who as yet I was unacquainted.

    "It was this - or perhaps he would have been Placemented; possibly here, in our Brighton boutique under Martina, as an in-store pedicurist," said another manageress with whom I was yet to make acquaintance, and who was wearing an emerald green T-shirt.

    "It was this - or maybe he would be put on attachment to one of the most critically undermanned female-friendly programmes, projects, or schemes," - this, suggested by one of the shoulder-footrest availing manageresses: the wearer of the crimson T-shirt and the ultra-thin, almost see-through white stockings, the Cardiff SPOILT! Boutique manageress Julie. "So, let's not go overboard with our praise, just yet," she cautioned in her pleasantly lilting Welsh tones. "He'll have to earn it!"

    "Oh, absolutely right, Julie!" agreed Miss Morris. "I do have to say, though - and far be it from me too, Julie, to cheerlead our footboy - I must concur with Hazel and give credit where credit is due: his reception skills are exemplary. And the added, bonus: David must be a good four, maybe five inches shorter than his runaway predecessor, Neville. And so, in addition to the new boy's apparent self-undertaken facilitation, thanks due to the perfect combination of his short stature and, as I've been witnessing, the assuring steadfast reliability of his upper-torso strength, the difference in the level of in-situ comfort, too, is so appreciable."

    "Yes, you are right, Martina. Mrs Harper's new male employee David is the ideal height and build; the perfect footrest, for refreshments-breaking businesswomen such as ourselves."

    "But of course, it always helps to wear heels, for the extra elevation afforded to one's standing foot," commented Miss Morris matter-of-factly.

    Miss Morris looked down at her standing left foot and regarded her kitten-heeled white mule.

    "Even these kitten heels put one to advantage, compared to wearing flats," added Miss Morris sagely, to the nods and murmurs of agreement of her encircling spectating colleagues.

    Miss Martina Morris then proceeded to make the minor but essential single-footed postured adjustments. Testing and retesting to her complete satisfaction that the ball of her foot was positioned correctly and supported firmly upon the bridge of my nose; the undersides of her clutching, nostril encapturing toes, ensuring her an enhanced surety of purchase and thereby her easiness of mind, pre-commitment.

    Their own, peace of mind now assured, two more footrest-availing manageresses came forward from the gathered coffee-breaking SPOILT! Boutique representatives to claim my shoulders and to, albeit inadvertently, helpfully 'anchor' me in position and, albeit incidentally, mercifully ameliorate my wearisome workload with the stabilising influences of the combined weight of their resting legs and their gratefully unshod foot. The left-shoulder footrest availing manageress to Miss Morris's left, wearing a lilac T-shirt; the right-shoulder footrest availing manageress to Miss Morris's right, an amber T-shirt.

    No sooner had they taken their places beside their local agent and conference organiser Miss Morris, when from the peripheral vision of my once again compromised eyesight, imperfectly I saw, taking up their positions on either side of me, two more footrest-availing manageresses. The one to my left, wearing a purple final-day-of-conference T-shirt; the one on my right, a mauve T-shirt.

    And, behind me, I sensed another two presences - another two manageresses. These, insinuating the bare soles of their invasive exploratory feet under the pulled-out tail of my shirt to take advantage of the foot-comforting next-to-the-skin warmth of my back, while they chatted, ate their sandwiches and drank their coffee.

    Miss Martina Morris's pre-commitment preparations, all checked and ticked off, in-situ, she opened a coffee-time conversation with her two shoulder-footrest availing colleagues.

    Mostly, it was girl talk.

    But again, as with Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish's conversation with the Bristol and the Cardiff SPOILT! Boutique manageresses, Maxine and Julie, a lot of what they said was to do with their fashion-world work and, as fashionistas themselves, enthusiastic interests.

    I listened with interest to the three manageresses in front of me, for their conversation was indeed intriguing. And most enlightening, too, as to the sorts of things that went on in their high-end fashion and personal services stores - particularly, with regards to their Placemented male pedicurists.

    Also revealed to me, was the SPOILT! Boutique representatives' conference agenda for their final afternoon's session.

    Apparently, this too would revolve around issues regarding their stores' Placemented male pedicurists.

    Each of the thirty SPOILT! Boutique manageresses would stand up, taking their turn to raise their points of discussion regarding and in response to the most popular of suggestions, recommendations, and requests put forward by their female customers of discernment.

    Eavesdropping, I learned that the left-shoulder availing manageress, wearing the lilac T-shirt and, from who's slightly upwards sloping sole perched upon 'her' shoulder, I saw was wearing tan tights, was Dianne, and she ran the SPOILT! Boutique, in Manchester.

    While it emerged that the right-shoulder footrest availing manageress, wearing the amber T-shirt and, from who's also slightly upwards sloping sole perched upon 'her' shoulder, I saw was barefoot, was Felicity, who ran Newcastle's SPOILT! Boutique.

    I gleaned this tan tights/barefoot information during Miss Martina Morris's quick, unassisted standing-foot changeover.

    Which was when I saw, too, that both of the shoulder-footrest availing manageresses wore flats, which, through the resultant lack of elevation as described by Miss Morris, accounted for their slightly upwards sloping soles perched upon 'their' shoulder, duly corroborating her sound reasoning and vindicating my idle speculation.

    I had the decided sense that Miss Martina Morris too now was going to seriously overrun, to the diminution of her remaining twenty-eight manageress colleagues, her two-minute time allowance with their emergency replacement 'little something extra'. Selfishly far exceeding her own, fair and equal share, to the unfair and unequal reducement of theirs.

    I had the decided sense, too, that none of the other coffee-breaking SPOILT! Boutique manageresses would step forward and complain; would not pull the local agent up, as to her self-centred hogging of their facial footrest.

    Would not air their resentment.

    Would not make a fuss.

    Would keep the disappointments of their denied pleasures, their thwarted anticipations, their unrealised refreshments-break treat, to themselves.

    Would not address their Head of Conference's selected replacement, Miss Martina Morris, as to her selfish excesses at this, their favourite and most coveted of footrest positions, while the luckier of them made do with availing themselves of my relatively ungratifying shoulders, back, and sides.

    But, what in the blazes' business was it of mine?

    I was just their refreshments-break foot furniture.

    Capable of accommodating up to seven.

    And anyway - what of, all of that?

    When with two SPOILT! Boutique manageresses' invasive and explorative bare soles on 'their' side of my back, and two manageresses' nyloned soles foot-resting on 'their' sides; scrunching their toes absentmindedly on the convenient protuberances of my hips as they drank their coffee and chatted - it was all I could do not to giggle idiotically.

    Not to giggle idiotically, in the throes of such undreamed-of sensual pleasure, into the pale-complexioned left bare sole of the facial-footrest availing conference organiser and manageress of Brighton's SPOILT! Boutique.

    *


    It was not 10:30, as scheduled, but almost eleven o'clock when the Head of Conference, Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish, announced that she and her twenty-nine high-end fashion store manageress colleagues would now return to their conference suite.

    I returned to the side of my employer Mrs Hilary Harper, at the four white tableclothed pushed-together serving tables where she and her two assistants Amanda and Zoe were now clearing them for resetting for the SPOILT! Boutique manageresses' 15:00 - 15:30 refreshments break.

    "I am extremely pleased with you, David," Mrs Harper told me. "You conducted yourself exactly how I would expect: with self-initiative. Your off-your-own-bat facilitations, in particular, were highly pleasing to watch. Keep that up, this afternoon, and Miss Hazel Connaught-Cavendish will be sure to pass on some truly marvellous references and recommendations throughout her circle of business colleagues and hopefully to her wider orbit of associates."

    "Didn't I say he'd be fine, Mrs Harper?" questioned Amanda. "That, at last, we'd found our missing team player?"

    "You did indeed, Amanda. And though of course as yet it is still very early days and I'd hate to get my hopes up for nothing, I think we've all just witnessed enough evidence to suggest that you have been proved correct."

    Zoe didn't say anything; she let her smile speak for her.

    All business again, Mrs Harper turned to me and said," But our busy day has just started. So now go and get our vacuum cleaner, David. And take it for a walk around the Pavilion Lounge - before you report to the office of the hotel manageress, Miss Honeywell."


    Tea, Coffee, and Me continues (and concludes) in Ch. 3.

  3. #3
    Apprentice Footsniffer OneAuthor's Avatar
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    Great stuff! I look forward to reading the final part.
    Feet dreams are made of stink

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by OneAuthor View Post
    Great stuff! I look forward to reading the final part.
    Thanks, OneAuthor.

    Chapter 3 is nearly finished.

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