It had been a tiring day, so she said to Madrigal: “Cooking can wait, I need something to relax me. And welcome as your attentions are, it isn't you...”
She went to the kitchen and fed the cat, then remembered that there was some white wine left in the fridge from the previous evening. "Ah yes," she murmured. “That will do nicely. But relaxing is one thing you can't do in tweeds, least of all when there are tarts to make ...but later.”
She took a long sip of her wine, then went upstairs to change. Off came the twinset and skirt, discarded as a butterfly sheds its chrysalis. She paused, turning sideways to approve of her profile in the mirror, smiling to herself, thinking: “Red always suited me; yes, I like red.”
She dressed and came downstairs to settle with her wine, a good book and her cat for company. After about half an hour, Madrigal was fussing to be let out, so Bambi stretched and rose from the sofa. She was about to open the front door when there was a knock. There was no mistaking the silhouette of her visitor even though she hadn't seen him – at least in the flesh – for years...
'Dickie!' she breathed. Madrigal escaped as she opened the door...
A thousand thoughts tumbled through her head as she slowly, shyly, opened the door and lifted her eyes to the face she remembered oh-so-well. As her eyes travelled upwards, she took in the well-honed golden-tanned body and… was that the suspicion of a visible corset line she could see beneath the expensive fitted silk shirt? No matter, it was Dickie alright. That much she knew as she met his expectant gaze. The spark was still there, and she was relieved to see that he had not added the one-size-fits-all blue contact lenses to hide his unique set of unmatched khaki-green and mud-brown peepers.
Nervously fingering the fur trim of her basque through the flimsy fabric of her trousers, Bambi took a deep breath – which, to her horror, came out as a star-struck gasp – smiled awkwardly and said "Well, hello stranger!"
"Hello yourself," drawled Dickie arrogantly, his Sussex vowels flattened by Hollywood and now completely devoid of any character. "It doesn't get much stranger than this, does it darling?"
“Well? Aren’t you going to let me in, dahling?” Dickie asked.
Bambi looked him up and down as she continued to absently finger her trim.
“Of course!” she exclaimed after an awkward and seemingly eternal silence.
Dickie entered and stood in the middle of Bambi’s humble living room. He surveyed the room as Bambi surveyed him.“How deliciously cheap, dahling!” Dickie exclaimed at last “I always was impressed by your simple tastes.”
“And none simpler than you” thought Bambi tartly.
“Tea?” she asked.
“Darjeeling?” enquired Dickie.
Dickie let forth an over-loud raucous laugh that faded as he mopped the corner of his mouth with a silk handkerchief he had theatrically produced from inside his blouse.
"You'll be the death of me!" he said. "Forget the tea. Let’s sit! You’ll be wanting to hear all about my wonderful life, dahling. While you’ve been here tending the vicar’s blooms I’ve been on a magical journey.”
Bambi sat in the small armchair opposite Dickie and listened politely as he went on – and on, and on.
“It wasn’t all plain sailing, dahling, I can tell you” he continued. “You know of my humble beginnings at the local Am Dram society but I left so hastily and without a word to you! I had a calling you see. Kismet, if you will. For two years, I worked the cruise ships to open my passage to the Land of The Free.”
Bambi frowned. It was going to be a long night, she thought grimly.
Sensing he was losing her attention, Dickie raised his voice a notch.“DAHLING! Have you any idea how hard it is to work your passage with 200 sailors tossing about on the open sea? It really takes it out of a performer. Even one of my calibre.”
“Dickie, this is all extremely fascinating,” Bambi retorted. “But I really must ask why you chose to visit me after all these years? After all, you had so many other... erm... ‘good friends’ in the village, didn’t you?”
She looked at him - noting the tone of voice, the inclination of the head, so different from the image in her memory, yet there was still a vulnerability hiding in there somewhere, she was convinced.
“Well,” he said “I have this fan site on the internet, where all my friends and fans can keep up with what I'm doing.”
“Fascinating,” said Bambi stifling a yawn. “Do go on.”
Hardly pausing for breath, he added: “The vicar is a great one for correspondence, and has kept in touch since I left. He knew that I’m planning a movie memoire, and wanted to return to do some research, so he volunteered in his own little way....”
“Patronising arrogant... I need my wine!” thought Bambi. Her patience was beginning to wear thin.
“So when he asked me to open the village fete, well, who was I to refuse free publicity? I decided to combine business with pleasure and come down here for a few days, back to dear old Holthorne. So Bambi darling, here I am...at your service!”
His voice trailed off as if he had just delivered a momentous and well rehearsed speech. He moved earnestly toward her along the sofa.
“Wine?” she asked, standing suddenly and moving out of arms reach, deciding that she didn't want to take part in his research project tonight. “White.”
Dickie looked stunned that his ploy had been so effortlessly out-manoeuvred.
“Thank you,” he replied meekly, remembering that Bambi Fancipants had never been a woman to trifle with, and that manners and decorum had always been demanded in his relationship with her. She had always been the soul of discretion, and his secrets had been safe with her. He watched at her pour his drink, he began to regret his sudden departure.
She returned with the drinks, curling up opposite him in an armchair, and as time passed, shades of the old Dickie she knew reappeared. The cruise ships and Hollywood certainly had not been nearly as glamourous as he had imagined they'd be, and his time there had taken its toll. But now he was back in England, and ready to relax a little in the company of old friends.
“Not so old!” scolded Bambi.
“Ahh!” he smiled slyly. “But old enough to remember the first strawberry flavoured lipstick!”
A sudden gasp. “I'd completely forgotten!”
Crestfallen, Dickie said: "But darling, how could you? After all, we..”
“No, not you. The tarts! I have to get to work on the tarts."
He looked deeply shocked: “You? You’re a? I thought you were still at the library!”
She snatched his glass, saying “If I don't get on with it, there’ll be no time, and I'll be in big trouble. You must go Dickie. At once. I'll see you tomorrow…”
And with his head whirling, Dickie found himself unceremoniously bundled out the door....
What happens in the next exciting episode - only you can tell...