BHM Available in all Sizes - by agouderia (~FFA, ~BHM, Drama)

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Busy writing
May 8, 2006
I'd like to nominate agouderia for the writer's guild and her own thread in the writers forum, in my humble yet enthusiastic fangirl opinion. Her stories are so well written and intimately detailed - and do a beautiful job of capturing the nuance of feelings so many of us FFAs have experienced.

:kiss2: blows kisses to agouderia :kiss2:

Lou Grant

Oct 29, 2009
I'd like to nominate agouderia for the writer's guild and her own thread in the writers forum, in my humble yet enthusiastic fangirl opinion. Her stories are so well written and intimately detailed - and do a beautiful job of capturing the nuance of feelings so many of us FFAs have experienced.

:kiss2: blows kisses to agouderia :kiss2:

The nomination will be taken into consideration. Please keep in mind it is not an instantaneous process.

BTW typically the best way to get information to a library mod would be PM. We don't always catch every post added on to stories if they aren't part of the story.


Library Girl
Staff member
Library Mod
Jun 21, 2008
this is a brilliant story so far, well done. i'm waiting for Philip and Antonia to make a move but as it's a non-romance i'm not sure where it's going... it doesn't have to be non-lust you know ;-)

can i ask as someone who lives in the region, have you lived in/around Brussels or are you researching thru the net? Because the descriptions of the places, attitudes, foods are spot on and help the story greatly.

don't keep us waiting for the next installment!

Thank you and everyone else for liking this story - I'm working on completing the next installment but now have some major other work catching up to so it'll take a little longer.
And don't worry - even though these two are good at getting in their own and each other's way, need their time - it's not going to be a 'rated G' story ;)

Regarding Brussels - I've been working there frequently for a while so the descriptions come from personal experiences - admittedly including some of my own preferences .....

I'd like to nominate agouderia for the writer's guild and her own thread in the writers forum, in my humble yet enthusiastic fangirl opinion. Her stories are so well written and intimately detailed - and do a beautiful job of capturing the nuance of feelings so many of us FFAs have experienced.

:kiss2: blows kisses to agouderia :kiss2:

:blush::blush: :bow::bow: :smitten::smitten: - x³ thank you - I simply don't know what to say or better write!

.... even though I'm still in the process of finding out what the writer's guild entails exactly - but knowing something about medieval history, being in the guild is every artisans aspiration ;)


Library Girl
Staff member
Library Mod
Jun 21, 2008
Part 6 - Warszawa

Stifling a yawn, Antonia carefully balanced the two heavy baskets on the hand rail of the elevator: It was 8:37 on a Saturday, she had already prepared two meals, was forty minutes late – and totally exhausted. In the past two weeks since coming back from Milan she and Philip had worked like crazy to come up with the revised business model of women’s wear only for ‘signC’ on the European market.

“There you are Antonia, I was starting to worry something might have happened,” Philip’s eager smile greeted her as the elevator doors opened. “Oh you brought our office picnic again, that’s even more work for you … but you always make such good things… let me take that for you…”

Yawning again, Antonia handed him one basket. “Here this is breakfast – take it to our meeting room, I’ll put lunch into the frig…”

While packing everything away, she could not stop marveling how Philip had changed since coming back from Milan. It was as if Franck’s absence and the decision to try to postpone the men’s wear line had liberated him: he worked tirelessly, confidently and in a good mood which translated to everyone except Guy and Baas. Dealing only with women’s wear seemed to put him much more at ease; he even suggested she should find a test market for extending ‘signC’s” size range by one or two sizes to her and Saskia’s endless astonishment. Just as surprising was that he enjoyed, even asked her to manage their meals. Mostly he uncomplainingly ate the three full meals with her she prepared, only once fussing over calories. To alleviate his fears in this direction, she made sure to prepare very healthy, filling dishes, off-handedly describing how she made them to reduce his inhibitions of finishing his fair share.

Seeing her yawn as he came back into the kitchenette, Philip immediately set a coffee cup under the machine and handed the cappuccino to Antonia. “You’re so tired… I’m sorry for working you so hard. Here, this might help a bit. I must say, this new Italian coffee machine is the best ‘signC’ investment so far!”

Following him into the meeting room, she could see he had spread out charts of the revised business plan on the tables which they went through for a final run, prioritizing the parts for the presentation to the board.

“Well… that looks seriously good,” Philip surveyed the final set of charts with obvious satisfaction while licking apricot fromage blanc from his spoon. “Is there anything left to take care of over here?”

“As far as I can tell only our internal design HR issues,” Antonia responded. “Franck needs to be told that his only chance of continuing his contract with ‘signC’ is to go into that 9 month rehab program we chose. That’s one good thing about these continental welfare systems – it might be more difficult to sack people, but within existing contracts you can put a lot more pressure on them. I would suggest Jean-Luc negotiates that with Franck. He isn’t thrilled but he has the cool to deal with it. And he can take Jan along as a native English speaker and semi-Brit for the local color…”

“Sounds like a reasonable plan. What about Saskia?”

“That’s a bit more problematic than it looks at first sight,” Antonia sighed. “She’s been doing excellent work, she’s totally thrilled to be rid of Franck as her superior and as comfortable as she can be with having to discuss and decide on things just with you and me. But … major but- she’s sort of in denial what taking on the full responsibilities of head designer would mean, like giving interviews, more public presentations, etc. She’s absurdly shy, not up to that right now…”

“Any ideas what we can do about that?”

“Saskia’s work is really good – and deep down, she knows that. She’s also more ambitious than it seems at first sight. I would suggest we send her to a therapy to overcome her shyness. Heather had a suggestion, a university colleague of hers from the psychology department, a French woman married to a Dutchman that should work for Saskia.”

“Sending everybody into therapy, sounds very American to me … were everybody has their personal, how do you say, shrink?”

“Now that’s a cliché!” Antonia giggled. “But don’t forget, Freud was a native German speaker – so I’m a bit like the personification of the two biggest psycho-analysis nations on earth.”

“Bl**** hell, what have I gotten myself into, if I don’t watch out you’ll send me into therapy next.” Philip laughed. “Anyway, talk to Saskia; she’s most likely to accept your advice. Now about how we will present this to the board next week in New York…”

“Were you thinking of taking me along?” Antonia’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Umm… of course, it was your idea. You’ve put so much work into it.”

Touched and pleased as she was by his suggestion, as well as eager to go on another business trip with him, Antonia could not blend out Craig’s warning which kept ringing from the back of her mind that Philip needed to fully redeem himself on his own in the eyes of the board. So it would probably not be a good idea if she came along and did part of the presentation. Not looking at him to hide her disappointment, Antonia shook her head. “Philip, that’s a great honor and I can’t tell you how much your praise means to me. I’d love to come to New York with you. But I don’t think it’s possible. I have too much to do here. We need to take care of the HR issues we just spoke about. Because of all the work we have put into the revision of our strategy, I’m totally behind schedule on all our marketing materials for the fall launch. I need to stay here and work on everything…”


Happily stirring her coffee, Antonia knocked on Jean-Luc’s office door to discuss the next steps with him after having received two SMS very late the night before: a simple ‘V!!!” from Philip, and a slightly more elaborate “good girl! Not what I had anticipated as solution, but definitely one that should work! Count yourself in for a bonus!” - from Craig.

Entering, she was surprised to see Saskia and Guy sitting across from Jean-Luc – Saskia looking as if she would like to hide under the carpet and Guy with pure hatred in his eyes.
Backing off, Antonia quickly said. “Sorry to interrupt, I’ll come back …” but got no further, because Guy got up, grabbed her coffee and poured it all over her.

“You bl*** f***ing Kraut slut! This is all your fault! Why didn’t you let Franck do his work? You’d do any disgusting thing to get ahead! Course a fat f*** like Watherwood will take any attention he can get, not much choice looking like a whale, ey? How many packs of Viagra did you need to feed him before he could get it up? Lucky you’re fat enough yourself, otherwise he’d have smothered you…” before he kicked his chair and stormed out.

Antonia stood there open-mouthed, not knowing what to say, realizing it was not necessary to say anything. Saskia got up, carefully stroked her arm. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m okay. Only covered in coffee and pretty disgusted.”

“Alors- that takes care of the problem of integrating Guy into Mme Wissemaar’s new team,” Jean-Luc said with an air of smugness. “An unprompted physical attack in front of witnesses is enough to fire him.”

In that moment Baas came in looking agitated. “Is it true, Guy was just fired?”

“I wouldn’t say he was fired –it is more that he fired himself,” Jean-Luc’s comment had a cynical tone to it.

“Well then, I’m resigning too. If Franck is not coming back and Guy is going, I don’t know who I can work with here anymore. Mr. Watherwood has been by-passing my competencies for months, doing everything with Urs. You’ll find my notice on your desk this afternoon.”

“Wow, is this some sort of rotten office soap? Who wrote this script?” Antonia couldn’t help shaking her head. “I need to go change, the coffee is getting cold.”

“Tant pis – it was not my intention to get rid of so many people so quickly,” Jean-Luc sighed. “What are we going to do about the CFO position? How can we inform headquarters about that?”

A happy grin spread over Antonia’s face. “Headquarters will be delighted! Baas himself already answered that question for you: Philip doesn’t need a CFO – he’s been doing the work with Urs all the time anyway. Saves a lot of money and increases efficiency!”

Jean-Luc tilted his head, raised his eyebrows then cupped Antonia’s face in his hands and gave her a small earnest kiss on the lips. “Merci cherie, your sang-froid really cut our Gordian knot here. Philip should do this, but he probably won’t dare, so my reverence in his name.”



Library Girl
Staff member
Library Mod
Jun 21, 2008
Part 1 of Chapter 6 on bottom of page 1

‘Bleep, bleep’ – Antonia fumbled with her mobile to check an in-coming SMS: “Where are you right now, what are you doing?” Philip asked.

“In Warsaw, at photo-shoot. Busy now, get back 2u later” she answered.

Two minutes later it bleeped again. “Know you’re in Warsaw! Want to know exactly where in Warsaw, what you are doing… sort of boring here…”

“No time now, call you later. Now at Wilanow Palace then Lazienki Park”, she typed in a hurry, only briefly acknowledging it was cute that he cared what she was up to. But she was too wound up talking to the photographer, helping Saskia select the models and accessories, checking with settings how they could match headlines to think more about it.

A little over half an hour later, Antonia’s mobile rang, seeing no caller ID, she picked it up. “So where are you now?” Philip asked.

“Philip, I’m still at Wilanow Palace, I’m sorry I didn’t get right back to you, but we’re really busy finishing off the shoot here… Can I call you back later?”

“Oh come on, give me one of those great descriptions of yours so I know what everything looks like.”

“Philip, I really don’t have the time, what are you up to, trying to pin point us on Google Earth?”

“Not exactly, I just want to get an idea how the photos might look …”

"Oh okay, we’re finishing off the models in the light winter dresses, skirt combinations and coats on the main stairwell. And we found a really cute school class with two nuns who are willing to play along in exchange for a small donation to their next field trip. It looks real good – and admittedly everybody is having a good time…..”

“…sure looks like a good time…” Philip grinned bashfully at Antonia coming through the broad open baroque wing doors.

“What are you doing here? Is this some hidden camera mobile phone commercial?” in surprise, beaming at Philip who looked summery in a light gray suit and lavender pin stripe shirt, giving him a quick cheek kiss in greeting. “Oh I see, purple tie, dernier cri in male fashion, you want to model for us?”

Immediately Philip froze and half retreated, mumbling. “I’m sorry, surprises mostly go wrong, I don’t want to disturb….”

“Philip, it’s wonderful to have you here!” Antonia took his arm and squeezed it enthusiastically. “I was just joking, I’m so glad to see you – why did you come?”

“Well, umm…. it was a little boring all alone in the office in Brussels, nobody to talk to…,” Philip mumbled looking at his feet. “Anyway, I’ve always wanted to take a look at what a fashion photo-shoot is all about, thought that might be a good idea. Also, I’m curious to see how Warsaw works as a location after you had insisted on it, energetically vetoing Prague or Krakow for being too cliché..”

“That’s so sweet of you,” Antonia clung to his arm, feeling elated that he showed such interest in what she was doing. “As soon as we finish this series, I’ll introduce you to the crew and tell you more about our schedule.”

The models and photographers, even Saskia were all duly flustered to have the CEO watch them, so after moving on to the next location at Lazienki Park, Antonia sent Philip off to do a city tour. “Enjoy yourself a bit. You can join us again this evening over in Praga, on the other side of the river where we’ll be doing a bar night shoot.”

As Philip joined them in the evening, Antonia was busy with a new set up and he waved her to continue, settling at the bar for a beer. When she had finished, she wanted to join him there, only to notice he had left. Searching the bar, she found him sitting at the piano, playing away – realizing that she hadn’t even paid attention to the music starting.

“May I join you? How was your day?” she indicated at the piano bench wide enough for two.

“Sure,” Philip nodded, moving over a little and playing on. “Great day, a little hot, but very interesting. I now understand why you insisted on Warsaw and vetoed Krakow or Prague. The mixture here of proud persistence in rebuilding the city’s heritage along with the zest for modern development is striking. I can see how you want to translate that into the image we are trying to build for ‘signC’s’ approach to fashion. Admittedly I was very skeptical, only gave you the okay against everybody else’s advice because I trust you have a full-fleshed concept in your head when you go after something with dogged determination…” giving her a sly smile from the side.

Placing a soft, chaste kiss on his chubby cheek, Antonia said warmly: “Thank you for believing in me and for understanding my intentions better than anybody else has ever done. Would you like some more of your beer?” – taking it off the piano and holding it to his lips, letting Philip drink thirstily.

Sitting there next to Philip, him contently playing away, feeling his warm flesh against her leg, looking down at his ample belly comfortably resting on his thighs, his graceful fingers dancing over the keys, imagining they were running over her body…

“What are you staring at…?” Philip’s angry mutter broke her reverie, as he pulled his coat over his belly again to close the top button.

“I was listening to the music and admiring your hands,” Antonia responded, hoping an explanation might help. “You have absolutely beautiful hands, I’ve never really noticed before. They’re like those of the saints and angels on the Italian late gothic, early renaissance paintings. Giotto would have used you as a hand model for one of his angels…”

“Antonia, sometimes your marketing talk gets ludicrous ….”

“No, she’s absolutely right,” Maciek, their photographer had joined them, taking a few pictures of Philip’s hands playing. “I’ve worked with male hand models that didn’t have so perfect hands. Actually it would be great for the series with the black dresses – using Mr. Watherwood's playing hands as the foreground, with the models leaning over the piano…”

Exasperated, Philip stopped playing and wanted to get up. Antonia put a soothing hand on his arm and gave him his beer. “Finish this, calm down. Maciek – that is a brilliant idea! It would look really good, we could even think of doing it as a black-and-white centerpiece in our catalogue…”

“Over my dead body…” Philip downed his beer in one gulp.

“Please Philip! It would look great and be a unique angle!” Antonia winked at him. “Actually with your dead body it would be easier – we wouldn’t have to convince you anymore, just prop you up, put your hands in position on the keys…”

Relenting a bit, Philip looked at her murmuring: “You’re serious, aren’t you..?” – seeing Maciek nod vigorously and Antonia take his hand, softly caress his plump palms, run her fingers along his long graceful ones with their elegantly curved nails, gently pressing the tips of hers against his. “Perfect. Simply perfect.”

“Okay, I’ll have another beer, maybe a vodka … and then I’m probably anesthetisized enough to literally give your crazy idea a shot….”


The next morning, Antonia decided to go for a swim again, despite her problems of navigating the pool with no glasses or prescription goggles. She locked her sunglasses with her room key into the safe box then carefully made her way into the water feeling her way along the wall, around the corner, past two pillars and then the five steps to the ladder into the pool. Making sure of her footing, she slipped in to notice there was at least another party swimming, nodding a “Dzien dobre” vaguely into the direction she heard the splashing coming from.

Enjoying the refreshing water, Antonia started swimming laps, carefully counting her strokes so she didn’t hit the pool walls at the end. After swimming for about twenty minutes, she almost hit the wall in surprise as she heard Philip’s voice a few meters next to her say pointedly. “Good morning Antonia!”

“Oh good morning Philip! Where are you?”

“Antonia, even you can overdo the discrete and considerate act!” she heard Philip snap angrily and started to move in the direction of his voice, hanging on to the poolside. “It’s impossible for you not to have noticed me at 7-8 feet distance..”

“Unfortunately it is possible,” Antonia interrupted him bumping into the small wall separating the pool from the stairs into the water, accidentally groping his chubby forearm as she steadied herself. “I’m totally nearsighted and literally blind as a bat without my contacts. I have to get this close” – she moved her face about only half a foot away from his, leaning over the wall – “to a) recognize you and b) notice you seem to be mad at me for some reason. I forgot my normal glasses as well as my prescription goggles at home – and I can’t swim with contacts, I’ve caught a few bad eye infections before. So I grope my way around here impolitely simply because I don’t recognize anything or anybody.”

“Oh shit no Antonia, I’m so sorry!” Philip’s expression changed instantly to one of relieved shock. “I didn’t know you had such a major problem. Are you okay? Do you need help? Is there anything I can do for you?”

“I’m fine, I know the number of steps to get back to my safe box where my sunglasses are. I’ll manage, it’s no big deal.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want you to fall or hurt yourself,” Philip looked at her in genuine concern.

“Don’t worry. I’ll swim another 25 laps then get out. See you at breakfast!” Antonia grabbed the pool side and kicked herself off to get back into the correct rhythm – pounding through the water silently cursing herself. Great – she had missed her chance to get a full view of Philip’s gorgeous bulk hanging out in swimming trunks, just because she forgot her goggles. Instead coming across as a half-blind imbecile who …. “Ouch!” as she hit the other side of the pool hard because she had lost count of her strokes.

“Antonia – did you hurt yourself?” she heard Philip again from somewhere above.

“Just a small bump, I misjudged my speed, it’s nothing!” Continuing to glumly berate herself Antonia swam on, now paying more attention to the number of strokes she was making.

After a few more laps, as she touched the pool side, she heard Philip again. “Antonia, give me the key to your safe box – I’ll go get your glasses for you. It’s not a good idea for you to be on your own here so helpless on the wet floor.” – noticing his hand in front of her face. “Here give me the key. Very nice bathing suit by the way…”

“Thanks – I bought it in Paris, summer sales. But honestly, I’ll be fine…”

“You might, or you might not … that’s a risk I’m not going to run if I can avoid it. The key please!” Antonia looked at his hand in surprise but pulled the key chain off her wrist and handed it to him, realizing Philip in contrast to her was probably extremely relieved she was not able to see him properly almost naked in swimming attire.

As she returned from two more laps, Philip handed her sunglasses to her.

Looking up, she saw he was fully wrapped in a large white hotel bath robe, smirking shyly down at her. “They have polar bear costumes in this hotel too!”

“That’s a good thing, I love being rescued by a polar bear, they’re my favorite bears,” Antonia grinned up at Philip who went pink and ambled off.

Philip was waiting for her standing undecidedly next to the breakfast buffet.
“Are you having trouble making up your mind what might be the most tempting for breakfast? It always gives me a really hard time to decide on anything before I’ve had coffee.” Antonia handed him a plate.

“Umm no, I’m just not that hungry,” Philip’s stomach growled loudly in contradiction, making Antonia smirk.

“Well, looks like somebody doesn’t really agree with your assessment. We didn’t have much dinner yesterday, we won’t have much time for lunch today – and it’ll be too hot to eat anything substantial anyway, so we should have a decent breakfast now. Swimming always makes me ravenous,” handing Philip a small basket of rolls and a large plate with fruit. “Could you please find us a nice seat? I’ll collect an assortment of other things for us.”

Joining Philip at a sizable table, Antonia spread the breakfast plates out and pulled out an envelope. “Look Maciek gave me the contact sheets of late night’s bar shoot, I’m really curious to see how they’ve turned out.”

“I’m certainly not,” Philip muttered wolfing down a poppy seed roll in two bites. “Don’t know what I was thinking when I let you include me in that photo shoot.”

Antonia surveyed the photos, emitting a few fond ‘ahhs’ and ‘ohhs’, repeatedly looking at a few particularly nice ones of Philip and herself she immediately decided to save in private. “The hand shots with the piano turned out great, they are really artistic,” showing them to Philip who gave them a skeptical look.

“Yeah, I guess they look nice… if you say so…”

“And here, these others ones he took on the side are beautifully authentic of you at the piano… “Philip gave them only a brief glance, turned away and Antonia noticed he actually shuddered physically, seeing pain in his eyes and lines of disgust in the corners of his mouth. Heart-wringing as she found his self-rejection, she by now knew it was hopeless to try to get him to see why he objectively looked great in these pictures, because he would block out the message. So she reverted to business, indicating at the hand shots.

“These here will add a special flair to our publications. Having you play live music greatly helped the models move more naturally and in conveying the atmosphere,” she smiled at him encouragingly, giving him a wink “Based on these pictures, we should start discussing your career as a hand model.”

“That joke is as bad as those in these absurd modern French plays which try to show you life is grotesque from all thinkable angles,” Philip scoffed.

“Agreed, it’s a lame joke – you don’t need a career like that. But from a professional point of view, you have to change your perspective on modeling. Real life perceptions and good photos…..”

“Which photo shoots are on our schedule today?” Philip clearly wanted to change the subject.

“Well, we’re finishing with the business shoot today in some of the new office locations behind the train station. But I have a different surprise for you… the business shoot is not that interesting, it’s business clothes and office buildings, you see that all the time. Instead I’ve booked you a tour out to Zelazowa Wola to see Chopin’s birth house….”

Philip stared at her open-mouthed for about half a minute, before he half-whispered, his eyes sparkling: “Are you serious? Why did you do that?”

“For an extremely bright person you sometimes ask incredibly basic questions…,” Antonia teased. “Now why would I possibly book a tour to Chopin’s birth house for a gifted, passionate piano player who has a cat named Chopin?”

“It’s the most wonderful, thoughtful thing anybody has done for me since….well ..,” he said quietly, a smile of sweet delight spreading over his face.

“Good to see you like the idea; it was such an obvious choice. You’ll be picked up at 10h00. Now here’s our itinerary for the day, you can join us any time. We’re finishing the day with a small farewell to the crew down on the Vistula, okay? Have fun then!”

After the farewell cocktail with their photo crew, Antonia and Philip started to walk towards the ‘Rynek’ the old town square, where she had reserved a table for dinner. Philip – who had taken to the Polish summer drink of vodka with cherry juice – was already slightly tipsy, more easygoing than usual but also visibly hot in his suit and tie.

As they had settled at their table and Philip had let Antonia order her favorites, she asked him. “What would you like to drink? The local beer is not bad, or you can stick to the vodka cherry which seems to appeal to you.”

“The vodka cherry is tempting…,” Philip smirked.

Seeing him mop his brow, Antonia suggested. “Why don’t you take off your tie and coat? This certainly isn’t a formal business dinner.”

“Ummm, no, it’s okay,” Philip took another long sip of vodka cherry and started to fan himself with the menu.

“Philip, there’s nothing wrong with loosening up a little. Give yourself a break!”

“It’s better with the coat. I don’t want to embarrass you…”

“Too be honest, I’m embarrassed right now seeing you so uncomfortable while I’m sitting here all cool and fresh in linen next to nothing,” Antonia retorted, hoping to undo his reserve by this unexpected angle – without success.

“How very funny … believe me, it’s no pretty sight without the coat,” Philip mumbled, downed the rest of his vodka cherry and stared hard at the buildings across the square.

“Let me show you how to put the best sight on display, I’m the marketing expert here – you’d better stick to your numbers!”

Realizing she would have to take real action, Antonia got up, stepped behind him, reached around to undo his tie, and open the top two shirt buttons. Taking a deep breath, expecting physical resistance, she carefully pulled his coat from his shoulders, eased his arms out and hung it over the back of the chair, only to notice that he had frozen, hunched over desperately sucking in his belly. Seeing the waiter, she quickly signaled him Philip needed a refill before she unbuttoned his cuffs, rolled up his sleeves, very lightly loosened his shirt around the middle before she sat back down, giving him a warm reassuring smile. “Much better, cooler as well as a great way to show off those impressive broad shoulders and a very nice shirt.”

Philip only swallowed very hard, took a long draught of vodka cherry looking down half whispering. “Are you sure it’s okay to be seen with me like this?”

“It’s wonderful to be seen with you like this. We’re both much more comfortable than five minutes ago,” Antonia stressed her point. “Relax, there is nothing whatsoever you need to worry about, you look perfect. Look, our dinner is coming. You have to taste the Sauerkraut mushroom pieroggi – combination sounds strange, but they’re delicious.”

Philip unfroze only very slowly, letting Antonia talk about the food, mainly responding in monosyllables, drinking quite a bit more vodka cherry, eating everything she put in front of him and over time exhaling, not manically sucking in his belly or hunching up in his chair to try to hide it anymore. “I’ve never had Polish food before, it’s much nicer than I had expected. All I had ever heard of was over-cooked cabbage.”

“I’m not sure you as a Brit have the right to go around Europe criticizing other nation’s cuisine,” Antonia winked at him. “But from my experience it’s really a lot better than its reputation. Any dish with potatos, mushrooms, carrots, trout, game or poppy seed in it is definitely worth a try!”

“At any rate, great dinner … but I’m not yet sure it was a good idea to introduce me to the vodka cherry combination, it’s pretty addictive,” Philip smirked looking at his empty glass.

“Would you like some more?”

“Like – more than yes; need, should have – strict no! I’m well aware that my compatriots have a disastrous reputation all over Eastern Europe for drunken excess…”

“Unfortunately that’s true, but I’ll make sure you don’t disgrace yourself!”

“Oh I’m more than sure Nanny Antonia will take good care of naughty Philip, make sure he doesn’t get into more trouble than necessary,” Philip gave her a long, candid look out of his by now slightly glazed green eyes.

“Shall we walk back to the hotel? It’s not that far, it’s down the main strip and pedestrian zone, it’s a beautiful evening. What’s more, ‘Café Blickle’ on the way has some of the best peach and cherry ice cream I know…”

“Good idea,” Philip heaved himself up a bit unsteadily, hung his jacket over his shoulder and heavily wrapped an arm around Antonia leaning his head on hers making her shiver with pleasure for finally having his warm bulk fully touch her. Despite feeling some of his weight on her, she walked the stretch of Krakowskie Przedmiescie and Nowy Swiat as if on air, hanging on with one hand to his thick love-handle, every once in while running it over the bulging rolls of flab on his side leaning as far into his belly as possible.

After being taciturn throughout most of their meal, Philip talked almost non-stop now: how happy he was to have come to Warsaw, how many new insights he had gotten, how much it meant to him to see Chopin’s birth house, how great she was about introducing him to new things – while Antonia listened, smiling up at him adoringly. This was Philip as she had always pictured him with her: happy, outgoing, relaxed … it only made her a little bit sad that it had needed a major dose of vodka cherry to get to this point.

As they returned to the hotel with their ice cream, a small band was playing in the lobby bar and several people were dancing. Philip leaned against a pillar, his expansive belly hanging out openly as never before tapping his foot in time to the music. Suddenly he asked. “How about a dance?”

Antonia blinked incredulously. Getting men to dance was difficult enough, but to have physically almost autistic Philip ask her unprompted caught her totally by surprise. “I’d love to,” she stammered after the first shock had worn off.

Dropping his jacket over a chair, Philip led Antonia to the dance floor, with a practiced move took her firmly in his arms and started leading her through rather difficult steps, in perfect timing to the music. Antonia –despite having taken a number of ballroom dancing classes – lacked practice and had to fully concentrate on not messing up the moves.

After two dances, when the band was playing a very slow song, she finally could speak up. “I’m too impressed for words. I know your musical talent. The only other man I’ve ever danced with who is in your league was my dance teacher, who had danced professionally for a while. Where did you learn this?”

“Family requirement,” Philip shrugged. “Although nobody ever thought my abilities were worth mentioning – it’s not the right dance genre anyhow.”

“What do you mean? How can anybody not see your talent at this?”

Hiding his face in her shoulder, Philip mumbled darkly: “My mother was a professional ballet dancer before she married my father. She always dreamed of a ballerina daughter. Instead she got a whale son. That was the disaster of her life …. and of mine.”

There was such hopelessness in his voice it almost broke Antonia’s heart. But these few words unlocked the enigma of Philip Watherwood for her, let her see the cruel mother who had rejected and thus badly damaged her lovely child, simply because he was a big boy. Turning him into an adult whose feeling of self-worth had been ruined, who was constantly trying to be someone else and harming himself in the process.

Tears of sadness and pity welling up in her eyes, she was at an utter loss for words which might even have the chance of fitting. The only thing she could think of was to snuggle as closely into his belly as possible, warmly rub his back and his wonderfully bulging sides to make him sense how much she cared for every bit of him. Philip responded by wrapping her tighter in his arms as they continued to slow dance in silence until the musicians packed up an hour later.

Going up to their rooms, Antonia hugged him good night in front of his, taking long enough to give him the chance to move further, but he just cradled her close, his big thick hands with their long graceful fingers caressing her buttocks. Raising her head, she kissed his plump double-chin, his chubby cheeks, his long lashes …. not daring to kiss her boss on the lips.

“Will you be okay?” she asked, thinking of the amount he had drunk. Seeing him nod, she said softly: “Good night then, sleep well, sweet dreams.”


Dimensions' loiterer
Staff member
Global Moderator
Library Mod
Sep 29, 2005
The great white north, eh?
Oh, fantastic....great to see things progressing between them!

(also I have great sympathy with Antonia for the myopic swimming....always a challenge in a new pool while you learn the stroke-length!)


Library Girl
Staff member
Library Mod
Jun 21, 2008
Part 7 - Deauville

Even though it was one of these typical cool, very wet Brussels summers, Antonia felt content as she fussed around the office kitchenette to put the stuffed zucchini she had prepared at home as lunch for herself and Philip in the small oven. Things had been going very well since Franck, Guy and Baas had left, Saskia’s work was developing nicely, sales estimates and new retail contracts looked promising. Ever since Philip had come to Warsaw more or less just to see her, their closeness and mutual understanding had increased. She was wondering what the rest of summer would bring.

Jan joined her in the kitchen, watched for a while then closed the door asking with a very worried expression on her face. “You care for him deeply, don’t you?”

Antonia felt her face grow hot, mumbling. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Come on Antonia, it’s no use denying it. Any of us who can see beyond our own belly button know you and Philip are crazy about each other – apart from the business obvious facts that he trusts you blindly while you would kill for him,” Jan said. “But I’m worried because you’re wasting your time.”

“What makes you think I’m wasting my time?” Antonia whirled around staring at her in astonishment.

“Three reasons: boss, British, fat.” Jan said simply, laying her hand soothingly on Antonia’s shoulder. “Please, listen to me. I mean well – I’m seriously worried about you.” Seeing Antonia swallow and nod, Jan went on. “Philip being your boss would be a problem in almost any constellation – you remember the problems Angel’s and Franck’s constant office affairs caused. Now the two of you more or less run our European branch –headquarters in New York would probably have a hard time stomaching that. Nobody except some easy going Frenchman or Italian or your regular total scumbag would overlook that. You’re too honest, Philip too shy, that rules out an undercover affair. Which leads to reason number two – Philip has serious body image issues. We could tell from his reactions to Franck’s constant needling he has no confidence whatsoever in himself as a man. You seem to know even more since you’re continuously cooking him balanced meals to make him eat healthy.”

Seeing Antonia hang her head, try to hide her face, Jan hugged her. “It’s okay, I know you have a thing for cute big guys, I remember Christian or Matteo. You’re a total sweetheart for trying to look after Philip, who really is a good guy. But on top of his hang ups about being big, he’s a British male!”

“I see your point with him being my boss, I know about his weight issues, but why is him being a Brit also a problem?” tears were streaming down Antonia’s cheeks by now.

“He even went to public school, right?” Jan wanted to know, drying Antonia’s tears continuing as she nodded: “Having spent half my life in London – there couldn’t be a bigger difference between your average Californian and British male. They honestly still believe in this stiff upper lip thing, don’t show feelings, don’t talk about feelings, don’t even know feelings exist – make a pass at the woman you care for only if you’re so sodden drunk you forget rules 1-3.”

Antonia smiled slightly through her tears. “Are you sure they’re all like that? Philip has almost admitted to me he missed me,” looking guilty for having told.

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody,” Jan assured her. “That means there is hope for you – but simply not in combination with problems a) boss and b) fat. Please think about it, I want you to be happy – that’s why I’m saying this. I don’t want you to wake up to reality maybe in a few years time when it might be too late.”

“Thanks Jan. I appreciate your honesty – even though it hurts, it really hurts badly. Can I have lunch in the peace and quiet of your office?”

“Sure – I’m off to that press conference soon to see what the chamber is up to.”

Antonia went into the bathroom, splashed cold water over her face, put on a lot of concealer and powder to hide she had been crying. She took the zucchini out of the oven taking them to Philip’s office through its back door.

Philip’s face lit up as he saw her come in with the steaming dish: “Oh Antonia, you’re pampering me! What’s that – courgettes?”

“Stuffed zucchini – but I guess that’s the same. You Brits use the French word- we Americans the Italian one – English simply is a culinarily deprived language.”

“Aren’t we having lunch together?” Philip smiled at her expectantly, making tears well up again in Antonia’s eyes. He looked so invitingly plump to touch, was by now comfortable enough in her presence to not pull on his coat in panic, his nice silver gray shirt just a touch too tight in sitting, outlining the thick fat tire around his middle, his round belly like a big soft pillow in his lap, the top button open leaving room for his chubby double-chin, the green tie highlighting his eyes and his boyish hair all messed up. Antonia closed her eyes, rubbed her temples shaking her head. “Are you feeling okay?” Philip sounded worried.

“I’m fine,” Antonia managed to say. “I just have a pretty bad headache today need to finish discussing a few things with Jan before her appointment. Would it be okay if I take tomorrow as Friday off? I think I need a small break.”

“Of course, please be sure to rest a little Antonia – thank you for lunch.”

In Jan’s office, Antonia let her tears run free: How big a fool was she? How could she have been so stupid, so naïve not to see the obvious? Had thought she just needed to make Philip understand she was a big fan of big men for him to finally make a pass at her? Had fantasized about, worked on a relationship with her boss –in such a small office when they were working so closely together? How unrealistic was that? What was she going to do now?

As she had half way calmed down, she called Heather. “Can you somehow get the week-end off, drive to the Normandy coast with me? Honfleur, Deauville? Girl’s week-end? Leave tonight?”

“Tonight? Antonia – what on earth is wrong?” Heather asked, hearing only sobs on the other end. “Now wait, I’ll call Benedict, see what I can do, I’ll get right back to you.”

Heather did call back. “It’s okay. Benedict can work from home tomorrow, the baby-sitter is available. Totally spontaneous get-aways are often the best. I’m packing my bag – when will you pick me up?”

Antonia reserved a room in her favorite small hotel in Honfleur, packed a few things in a small bag, picked up Heather then hit the accelerator first down A1 towards Paris, then A29 over west towards Le Havre, ignoring the speed limit as far as possible.
“You do remember you’re driving the mother of four minors?” Heather asked her in slight worry behind Amiens.

“Heather, relax! My 4-wheeled friend and I know what we’re doing. Look at this lovely, brand new, beautifully empty toll highway – why on earth should we bore ourselves to tears driving only 120 km/h?” Antonia looked at her mischievously, teasing the accelerator a little further. She only slowed down a bit as the wide spanned architectural beauty of the ‘Pont de Normandie’ crossing the Seine delta appeared in front of her.

They didn’t talk about Antonia’s reasons for impulsively running off on this weekend until the next morning, a sunny but cool day for July when they drove out to Deauville to take a long walk on the wide beach at low tide, Antonia shivering in painful pleasure as the icy water and wet sand stung her feet.

After a while, Heather panted to a stop. “Okay Antonia, that’s enough cooling down for you, or at least your feet. Now for heaven’s sake – tell me why I had to come here on a minute’s notice to haul my 4’’ less and 75 pounds more across a windy beach in silence trying to keep up with you?”

Antonia hugged her quietly for a moment. “Thank you, bedankt, merci, danke, grazie tanto Heather for being the best friend possible coming here with me. Let’s go sit over there on the wall while we talk, I could probably walk all the way to Brittany, but that wouldn’t help either. It’s about my job and Philip,” tears welling up, making Heather wrap her arm protectively around her. “You were right from the first time you met – of course I have a major crush on him.”

Slowly, meanderingly she told Heather about how she instantly had fallen for Philip, how well they worked together, how they had slowly gotten closer, despite his very shy and reserved approach, recollecting all her favorite little scenes she loved replaying in her head, only hinting at Philip’s sensitivities and ending with Jan’s warning that her crush on Philip was leading nowhere.

By the end, Antonia was in tears again. “I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid Jan is right – if I continue working for Philip, I probably won’t get anywhere. What should I do?”

“What do you mean – what should you do? It sounds like things are progressing quite nicely between the two of you. I think you need a little more patience with Philip, given the difficult situation. Although I know patience is not your forte ...”

“But what about what Jan said? She’s right, Philip will never dare make a move as long as I work for him … he’s way too decent a guy. Since he’s my boss, I can’t do anything either. If I stay with ‘signC’, I have to find a way to fall out of love with him …. Or if I want more from Philip, I need to find a new job…”

“Antonia listen,” Heather said gently but firmly, handing her a tissue. “You asked me to come along here because you seriously want my opinion – right? Why is my opinion important for you – apart from the fact that we’re BFF’s?”

“Well, you know, you and Benedict have such a great relationship, even though you have a stressful life, I think you might have some good advice,” Antonia sniffed. “I know no better person to talk to than you anyway. And…well .. also I think you might be able to understand how Philip feels better than others…”

“You mean because I’m also a fatty?” Heather continued as Antonia nodded. “Okay – if you ask me, I’ll tell you honestly what I think. But I warn you, it might be something you don’t want to hear. I think you’re overreacting. I think you don’t need to do anything right now except let things develop along the lines they have so far.”

“But what about what Jan said? That things won’t develop much further?”

“Jan probably is right. Given the situation and Philip’s shyness, you probably won’t get beyond a certain point,” Heather admitted. “But – I don’t believe you’ve reached that point yet. You haven’t gotten to know each other on a personal level all that well. You’ve only been out together on business trips, you’ve never even set foot in each other’s apartments… do you even know where he’s going on vacation?”

“No, I don’t….come to think of it…"

“See, that’s what I mean … the two of you still have, within the framework of the situation you’ve been dealt, quite a way to go before having to decide whether you need to change things to move on to the next level…”

“But I have the feeling Philip won’t dare go any further than we’ve already gotten in the boss – employee set up we have,” Antonia argued in frustration.

“Maybe… but face it Antonia that has less to do with Philip being your boss than him being as overburdened by body image issues as he is. That’s nothing you will solve by pushing things. On the contrary, it needs more time and patience than you are used to investing,” Heather wrapped her arm around Antonia who was fighting tears again, gently tugged her thick hazelnut ponytail. “I warned you – you weren’t going to like what I have to say.”

“I’m so in love with him, probably like I’ve never been before. I want to show how much I care for him, how gorgeous he is, how wonderful his thick body is…”

“Toni, you’re better at making us fatties feel good about ourselves than anybody else I know, even Benedict,” Heather smiled at her fondly. “But from what I’ve seen of Philip - his issues go really deep. If you ask me, he needs to face them and get professional help. ‘Normal’ covers a very wide range – but his insecurities about his weight are no longer within that range. I’ve dealt with them myself, I know what I’m talking about.”

“But he has relaxed quite a bit since Franck has left….”

“Still, the way he acted regarding Franck only confirms my theory. If you’re honest to yourself, you know that – or even more than you’ve admitted to me,” Heather sighed. “Philip is no clueless adolescent on a playground of bullies. He’s an adult, with all the assets to help keep such insecurities at bay: He’s professionally very successful; actually has the status to call the shots, put others in their place. He has a number of outstanding talents. He has an in every sense very attractive women going crazy after him. Above all, yeah - he’s a big guy, but by any objective standard he’s seriously handsome. If all that put together doesn’t work, he needs help you can’t give him.”

“That sounds so hopeless, so final… what shall I do? Have you ever thought about it that I really am going crazy, sitting next to him in meetings, having to keep my hands to myself?”

Heather laughed lightly. “How do you say – the situation is hopeless but not serious? You’ll get what you want, you just have to be more patient, play your cards carefully with Philip. Now you need to get your mind on something else. Why don’t we go for a crepe lunch? Maybe to that cute place that even had “Crepe Antoinette” on the menu for you?”

“Une bonne idée! In the afternoon we can check out the cheese markets. Shopping is still the best cure against big boy troubles!”

In the evening, Antonia packed their picnic basket with some of the cheeses and patés they had bought, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, various small baguettes and two bottles of her favorite light summery Beaujolais. They settled on a remote bench on the beach walk way, gazing into the dusk and hungrily tearing pieces of baguette apart to put cheese on them. Without noticing, Antonia drank quite a bit of wine so her mind wandered to fantasizing she was here with Philip, leaning into his soft belly pillow, coaxing him to eat some cheese.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Philip would probably love the Gapéron with the red wine….”

“Oh sweetie, you’ve really got it bad,” Heather stroked her hair. “The two of you would make a good couple, I can see that. Be a little patient, then in the right moment talk to him about how you feel. Tell him exactly how you told me, with all those cute little scenes, that’ll make it easiest for him to understand and believe you. Some more wine?”

“Bien sur. You’re right, patience is not part of my vocabulary in any language,” Antonia sighed. “Can you imagine how hard it gets to constantly suppress you desires, especially if you have the object constantly right next to you? After I danced with him in Warsaw, do you know I had to sit in a bidet full of cold water for half an hour in the middle of the night to get my insides back in line?”

Heather choked with laughter on a piece of Camembert au Calvados, coughing heavily before she could respond. “Sorry … not to belittle your suffering, but that’s hilarious. And an interesting remedy I need to keep that in mind.”

“I know it sounds silly. It’s just getting harder and harder for me to think straight around him. Like Philip always plays with his color pencils he uses for high-lighting during work – and all I can think of is how his fingers would feel playing with my breasts. Or when we sit next to each other, he’s all big, warm and round – my mind keeps envisioning what it would be like to bite open the buttons of his shirt and then start nibbling on his big belly. Really bad is also when he leans over the table, he’s got this perfect plump, cuddly round ass, so sexy! Like the one of “Orsy”, you know my favorite bear, where I gave a replica to your Pierre for his baptism? My hands itch because I want to give him a fun little spanking...”

“Wait a minute – do you mean to tell me you gave my son a teddy bear as a present with a particularly sexy butt? Isn’t that a bit perverted?”

Antonia got the giggles and it was a while before she could answer. “No, I gave him ‘Orsy’ because – apart from the sexy backside – he has a very intelligent, understanding expression, so from my experience he’s the perfect confidant.”

“Okay, if you say so,” Heather raised her eyebrows skeptically. “Do you know I’ve always been a bit jealous of your creativity and imagination? When I want to do something ‘creative’ with the kids, I have to read at least three parenting guide books. While when you come, you just improvise or tell them great stories and they love that even more. But listening to you now, I get the feeling that vivid imagination might be a very mixed blessing….”

“Hmmm, I’ve never lived without my imagination, I don’t know what that would be like,” Antonia mused. “But you’re right, regarding Philip, my imagination regularly turns into pure torture. Do you know I’ve had to start keeping spare panties and panty liners in my desk, just because I often come out of meetings with Philip soaking wet? God, why am I telling you this, I’ve had way too much of this Beaujolais!”

“It’s okay; this is a girl’s weekend … what happens at girl’s weekend, stays at girl’s weekend. Admittedly I’m at a loss for comparable experiences, don’t tell Benedict, but no guy has ever excited me that much … and from what you are saying, continuously. I honestly don’t know whether I should envy or pity you...”

“I need more cheese before I have any more wine,” Antonia scraped some Langrès out of its little basket onto her baguette, as her mobile bleeped. “Are you feeling better? Did you have a nice holiday? Good night, see you Monday!”

“Very nice day, currently working on French cheese market survey; could use some input from you. Bon weekend!” Antonia typed back sighing. “All I really want to type is ‘love you, miss you’…. I can’t help thinking how much easier things would be if we didn’t work together, then I could just tell him how I feel. After my experience now at ‘signC’, I should be able to find another good job in Brussels, be it for an American company or in the fashion business…”

“Antonia, look at me,” Heather’s voice and expression were solemn. “Whatever you do, speak with Philip openly first. Promise me you won’t run ahead doing something definite before talking to him about everything. Promise me, okay?”


Active Member
Jun 18, 2009
I was so excited to see another installment! Oh, such lovely, agonizing torture :) This is just like reading a romance novel where you want to tell them, "Just get together already!" Your writing is superb :)


Aug 25, 2006
I was so excited to see another installment! Oh, such lovely, agonizing torture :) This is just like reading a romance novel where you want to tell them, "Just get together already!" Your writing is superb :)

yes! ditto this! so, so good :bow:


Oct 6, 2005
Amazing story and so well developed. I wait by the screen for more. Thank you.


Dimensions' loiterer
Staff member
Global Moderator
Library Mod
Sep 29, 2005
The great white north, eh?
I'm sure I'm repeating myself, but this story is just sooooo goooood!!!! From feeling Antonia's turmoil to tasting the cheese on the baguette, it just pulls me completely into each chapter.


Library Girl
Staff member
Library Mod
Jun 21, 2008
Part 8 – Five blocks down

To Antonia’s surprise, Philip had opted for the traditional Belgian summer vacation taking almost all of August off, keeping in touch with her mainly through SMS and e-mail, calling every once in a while from an area with very poor network coverage, only evasively answering her questions about his whereabouts with ‘hiking in the Alps’.

Since the opening of the first ‘signC’ stores was set for autumn, Saskia, Jean-Luc and she herself were intensely busy with the final preparations, checking on things, Jan booking first advertisements, planning the store openings and the more, trying to get as much done during the relative calm of summer. The little free time she had, Antonia spent on thinking about Philip, how their relationship might develop and which options she had.

Philip came back a few days before September 1st – and Antonia knew she needed to talk to him personally right on his return. So she pre-scheduled an appointment with a slightly surprised Joanna, got a perfect hair-cut with red highlights, a new sample dress from Saskia in grey and raspberry as well as a pair of raspberry sexy Pura Lopez slings to match.

Her heart was beating like crazy and there was a cold knot of nervous fear in the pit of her stomach as she stepped into Philip’s office. He was sitting at his desk, slightly tanned, but also looked a bit drawn and noticeably thinner, about the size he had been when he came to ‘signC’, as she could see as he quickly got up from his chair. “Antonia,” he beamed and pulled her into a tight hug, “it’s so good to be back!” only to step back blushing: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to….”

“No, it’s wonderful, I’m so happy to have you back too,” Antonia used the opportunity to likewise pull Philip into a hug, coyly slipping her arms around his waist under his coat, feeling his warm softness through his shirt and reaching up for a real kiss. Touching his lips was a dream of months come true, he responded first softly then more intensely for what seemed like an eternity of maybe 90 seconds before he broke away stammering. “We can’t, we mustn’t, we work together, please excuse me being so forward….”

Shaking his head, Philip moved behind his desk again and sat down on his wide CEO chair, not looking at her. Antonia followed him around and settled herself on one of its armrests, half bodily draping herself across him, his warm closeness strongly motivating her to address her issue. She laced her one hand through his and ran her other one gently through his hair. “Philip, that’s actually what I want to talk to you about… I want to do things like this with you but I can’t while I work for you….”

“Antonia, you’re being really sweet and it’s so good to see you again, but…” Philip looked at her in helpless discomfort.

“I’ve missed you so much,” she said softly. “Not only working with you, but talking to you, just having you physically close – as you can see, I can’t get you close enough,” softly running her fingers over his rounded cheek.

“I dislike having to say it, but I’m officially your boss….”

“That’s what I want to talk to you about.” Antonia took a deep breath. “As much as I love working for you … there are many things I‘d love doing with you even more. I want you to be more than my boss, I can ….” as a letterhead on his desk distracted her ‘Alpsee-Klinik Kärnten – Schrot-Fastenkuren’, making her exclaim in shock, her hand reaching for the paper: “Du hast doch nicht etwa im Urlaub eine Schrot-Kur gemacht?”

“What did you just say…?” Philip asked, instantly snatching the paper from her hand and burying it under a pile of others. “That’s nothing… now what … ?”

“Sorry, that was German.” Antonia was flustered.

“And – what did you say?”

“I know it’s none of my business, but I’m worried…, Antonia swallowed, “you didn’t actually spend your vacation at one of these Schrot diet fastening clinics, did you? In rainy Carinthia?”

Not looking at her, blushing dark red, Philip mumbled: “As you said, it’s none of your business.”

“But why did you do that Philip? They’re so extreme, that’s very unhealthy,….”

“Now why would I do something like that? Ever looked at me with your contacts on? That’s by far the most stupid question anybody has ever asked me!” Philip exploded, got up, roughly pushing Antonia off his chair, making her have to catch her balance. She stared at him baffled, as he paced the office, never having witnessed such an outburst before. “Could you please finally get to the point why you wanted to speak to me?”

Hurt and embarrassment were written all over his face, telling Antonia their talk couldn’t have gone any worse. She thought rapidly of how to steer things back into line where she needed them. “As I was trying to say, you mean very much to me, much more than just my boss. You being happy, healthy is very important to me, that’s why I worry if you resort to unhealthy, in my opinion totally unnecessary measures….

“Antonia, if I have to say that’s none of your business one more time, you will get your first official reprimand into your HR file…,” Philip said through gritted teeth. “Now what’s your point!”

Seeing the necessity to calm things, Antonia suggested. “The subject I have to address is honestly a bit difficult. Could we please sit down again?”

Philip glowered at her but nonetheless sat back down on his chair while she took her customary seat across from him on the other side of the desk.

“Like I was trying to explain – I really like working here at ‘signC’. But I fell for you the first days you came here as CEO, and I’ve been battling my attraction to you ever since. Working for you is simply not enough to satisfy me,” she tried to look Philip, whose expression had frozen again, in the eye but he avoided her gaze. “I would like you to be more than my boss, it would be wonderful if you’d be a real friend, could even see yourself as the man in my life…”

“… but we’re friends, aren’t we…” Philip murmured uneasily.

“Yes, we’re friends, I’m happy to hear you see it that way too – I always felt we have a connection,” Antonia smiled in relief. “But if we want to make more of our friendship, we can’t continue working together. We can’t go on as boss and employee…”

“Are you trying to tell me taking ominous detours that you intend to leave ‘signC’?” a trace of panic appearing in his glance. “Have things deteriorated while I was away? What do we need to do to make you stay?”

“No, things here are just fine. It’s as simple as I said – I would like our relationship to move on from the professional to the truly personal level … and that is not possible if I can continue working here…”

“Again-what do we need to do the keep you with ‘signC’?” Philip interrupted her.

“Nothing.” Antonia took a deep breath, bracing herself for his reaction. “I want to be free from professional constraints for personal relations with you. This will be possible – since I’ve been offered the position of Secretary General of the European Association of Fashion Retailers (EAFR) ...”

Philip looked at her in true shock, swallowed twice before he said in a flat voice. “Congratulations – great position, major career step. Under which conditions would you stay on? How much more do you want? Official position as my deputy? Full responsibility for certain country markets?”

“I’ve been trying to explain that I can’t stay on here at ‘signC’ because you mean too much to me. If I have to, I’ll be very blunt about it: I’m totally in love with you, you’re the most wonderful guy I’ve ever met … and I want you in my bed and not as my boss. That’s why I accepted the EAFR offer ….”

“You’ve already accepted? And never said a word to me?”

“It all went really fast, it was vacation time, and you weren’t here……..”

“When are you leaving?”

“Philip, please, try to understand me, I did this for us…”

“When are you leaving?”

“The contract says October 1st…”

“Is there anything we can do for you to reconsider?”

Antonia looked into his face, his expression tense, his eyes downcast, as he swallowed hard several times. “No, I’ve already signed the contract, my notice is ready, it meets the four week criterion. Please, believe me…”

“As I said congratulations. It was good working with you. Do you have any idea where we might get a replacement on such short notice?”

“Philip, could you please look at me…”

“Answer my question, what about the replacement?”

Sighing, Antonia answered. “Arthur Trapper from marketing at headquarters would be a good choice. He’s worked for an MEP for a few years, studied in Regensburg, currently has a S.O. in The Hague, so is very keen on coming back to Europe ….”

“Interesting, so everybody at ‘signC’ except me already knows you’re leaving,” Philip tone was cutting.

“No, nobody knows, not even Jan. They’ll all be as shocked as you are!”
Antonia noticed her own hurt was making her lose her patience. “You asked for a candidate – Arthur is highly qualified, interested in working in Europe and above all a really nice guy – so that is my suggestion.”

“Well, I’ll have Jean-Luc negotiate with Craig. Hand your notice in to him and he will finalize everything with you. Thank you for informing me. Good luck with you new position.” Philip stared down at his desk, opened a folder and picked up the phone. “Antonia, we’re finished. Please leave my office now, I have work to do.”

Feeling as if she had run against a pillar, the breath knocked out of her, Antonia turned and left his office, in a daze put her notice in Jean-Luc’s box and went into her office. She sat down at her desk, unable to say, do or think anything – just sat there, stared out the window, feeling cold and numb, it was the pain of complete vacuum, if such a thing existed.

It took her a while to fully realize what had happened. She had had an uneasy feeling, how risky it might be to get Philip to understand why she was leaving so suddenly. But she had never imagined things would go so wrong, that he would be so upset and personally hurt that she probably couldn’t even talk to him anymore. That was the single painful thought that ran through her mind in an endless loop until the door suddenly opened and Jean-Luc briskly stepped him, tossing a piece of paper on her desk: “C’est quelle sorte de folie, ça?”

Looking at the paper, Antonia saw it was her notice, saying dully. “I’ve accepted the position of Secretary General at EAFR. I had hoped if I was professionally independent from Philip we could finally have a real personal relationship. You probably know how much I care for him…”

“You care for Philip?” Jean-Luc’s voice was bitter with irony. “You’re breaking his heart – a great way of showing that.”

The tone and his words slowly set loose the tears that had been assembling in Antonia: “But I didn’t mean to, I wanted the best for both of us….”

Alors, what you have achieved is to show him once more is that it’s best not to trust anybody, let alone a woman,” Jean-Luc sounded cynical. “He’s let you get as close as he hasn’t let anybody get in years, only to be disappointed again. Bien entendu, it’s a good career step for you – but couldn’t you have shown him the minuscule bit of fairness to inform him before you signed the contract?”

“I know I made a huge mistake!” Antonia sobbed softly. “The timing was awful, they wanted a decision during summer break. It might not sound convincing since it is a good career move, but the only reason I ever thought of switching jobs was because I’m so in love with Philip. I want him to be more than my boss, I want him to be my best friend, my lover, the man in my life. I got to the point when I couldn’t stand sitting next to him, it not being appropriate to touch him…”

Merde – you’re serious about leaving because you want an affaire de cœur with him, aren’t you?” Jean-Luc scratched his head. “It’s a bizarre logic – I believe you, but I’m skeptical whether Philip ever can. What were you thinking when you did this undercover maneuver? You’ve been taking good care of him, shielding him from personal difficulties, you seemed to understand his sensitivities … and now you cut him up just like all the others have done! Do you have any idea how disheartening his relations with the women in his life have been so far?”

“No, not really,” Antonia sniffed. “I only know his mother must’ve made growing up very difficult for him….”

“Sa mère, cette cruelle salope…” Jean-Luc spat. “Excusez-moi, that woman is complètement unfit to raise a child. Can you believe he was never allowed to enter her presence without a coat or jacket on, even as a child, because she found his round form so repulsive, told him that ten times a day. Did you know that’s the reason he stays covered up as much as possible until today?”

“I didn’t know that – but I inferred something of the sort.”

“Has he ever told you anything about his previous girlfriends?” seeing Antonia shake her head, he sighed, “I really shouldn’t tell you, but it might help you to understand how incomprehensible and non-credible your approach seems to him. Philip’s first love was a charmante British-Indien girl, Clementine, whom he met in summer diet camp as a teenager…”

“Does he still spend his summer vacation in diet clinics? Sorry for interrupting!”

“We don’t talk about such personal matters, but I assume he does,” Jean-Luc gave her a piercing look. “How do you know?”

“I saw a letterhead in German from some clinic in Carinthia on his desk, asked him about it…” Antonia felt ashamed of having to admit this.

“That was today too?” Jean-Luc rolled his eyes. “No wonder he is totally beside himself. That probably was the last thing he wanted you to discover. Now back to Clementine … they went to diet camps for several summers together, met as often as possible. It goes without saying his mother was totally against it – a fat girl from the colonies, how low can you sink? Her family was very traditional, was not pleased with a non-Indian boy either. They withstood the pressure together quite well for some years, I met her late in their relationship when he came to my tutorial in college…”

“What made them breakup in the end? His mother?”

“No, his weight – what he sees as the ultimate curse in his life. Clementine over the years managed to get very slim, Philip didn’t. She broke up with him telling him she didn’t believe he would be able to overcome their difficulties if he wasn’t even able to successfully battle his weight problem. Then I’m only vaguely familiar with the story of his arranged engagement….”

“Arranged engagement - that’s 19th century!”

“That’s British upper class for you, still hanging on to as many relicts from the past as possible,” Jean-Luc let out a bitter laugh. “As mentioned, I know no details – but his mother had found some Baronet’s daughter who needed the Watherwood’s money to save her estate to be engaged to him. Mother and fiancée were on him to diet all the time. She broke off the engagement because she found a richer Australian to marry.”

Pausing, he looked at Antonia who was wiping tears out of her eyes. “You understand now you’ve cut into his sorest point, making it almost impossible for him to believe you? Last there was Annette, a lovely, red-headed Swiss-German violinist, who studied here in Brussels while he was in Bruges. He accompanied her on the piano for her practice. She was slightly eccentric - what can you expect from an artist – but rather loving to him.”

“How did that end then?”

“A third party and career considerations. Annette needed a piano partner to play professionally with – and Philip was clearly going to choose business over music as a career. Enter Raphael, I hate to admit it, a French pianist, skinny, gloomy. He did everything to win over Annette, not only as his duet but also as his personal partner. His tactic strongly resembled Franck’s – he noticed Philip isn’t able to handle people making fun of his weight, so he did that in Annette’s presence until Philip lost his nerve and gave up.”

“Jean-Luc, why didn’t you tell me all this much earlier? If only I’d known, I would’ve … well gone about things differently… I’ve asked you so often about Philip’s past, you never answered any of my questions…”

“Discrétion oblige chérie,” Jean-Luc sighed. «But you may be right, I should have told you. At the latest after you solved the Franck problem, because it showed Philip is personally important to you, despite this current disaster.”

“What can I do now?”

Poooff … aucune idée. He doesn’t want to see or talk to you, he’s locked his Antonia door. Give him some time … and find a new key to re-open that door. But I warn you - ça sera difficile!

As Antonia had predicted to Philip, all the others at ‘signC’ were just as shocked and upset about her leaving so quickly as he had been. Saskia had tears in her eyes and Jan looked at her dumbfounded as she tried to explain: “Jeez Antonia, I know I was the one to warn you of potential problems if you wanted to become personally involved with Philip. But I never expected to trigger such a reaction, have you run off immediately to look for a new job – even though I can see it’s a great career move here in Brussels. Sec Gen for a European professional association, that’s something everyone wants on their CV.”

“I hope the two of you will at least believe me that I didn’t take the job mainly to climb the career ladder, but because I wanted to give me and Philip a better chance in our private lives. Even though I probably blasted all chances I might ever have had with him in the process,” Antonia mumbled glumly.

“Well, knowing how crazy you can get, I do believe you – but I don’t really see Philip believing it, you poor thing.”

“We’ll miss you so much,” Saskia’s whisper was choked. “I can’t thank you enough; you’ve done so much for me. I’d never have this position, these professional opportunities without you. I don’t know what we’ll do…”

“Saskia, I’m only transferring to an office five blocks down from here, I’m staying in the fashion business, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to work together, see each other, even have lunch together,” Antonia reassured her. “I always thought of the two of you more as friends than as colleagues. I hope this will stay that way. And thank you for everything; I love your work, everything you’ve always made for me, your creativity.”

Over the next days, Philip was true to his word: He did not respond to a short, personal letter she wrote him trying to explain again with a heartfelt apology. He left for London, not to be seen in the office anymore and had Jean-Luc arrange the details with her. He had him offer Antonia her full annual salary if she did not take the vacation days still due to her to instead check on all the preparations for the ‘signC’ launch in the major flagship stores and with the retailers, coming up with detailed to-do lists and timelines, reporting all this to Jean-Luc.

Even though this meant she would be on the road for almost a whole month, Antonia agreed. Right now, she did not have the feeling she could stand being alone with herself in Brussels, so numbing herself with work, seeing different places, being on the go all day and spending the evenings in hotel rooms writing reports seemed like the less stressful alternative.

The cities, stores, hotels and locations passed like a blur. She only took one longer weekend off on returning from Portugal to visit her university friend Catalina who lived in Seville and was undergoing a messy divorce while having two children under three to fend for. Together they went to Catalina’s aunt’s beach shack – there was no other way to describe it –in the lovely nature reserve of Matalascanas to swim, relax and tell each other their relationship woes.

“I know my problems don’t compare to yours, you’ve been dealt the much worse deal Catalina. So give me a telling off, if I get on your nerves, “Antonia told her.

Catalina shook her head and cradled little Marina. “Emotionally, you’re in a worse position. I married Paco because he was the one I finally got pregnant from, not because he was the love of my life. You know how badly I wanted kids. So I knew I was running a high risk that things might not work out with us as a couple – but it was a price I was willing to pay. You in contrast seem to be in love with this Philip like crazy – that hurts a lot more, even though I might have more practical problems to deal with.”

“I’m totally at a loss of what to do now. I don’t even know how to get back in touch with him. After he hung up on me on the phone, I haven’t dared try again – he hasn’t responded to anything in writing.”

Looking very thoughtful, Catalina let the baby suck the bottle for a few minutes before she asked: “What does he like to do? Any interests, hobbies, favorite foods or drinks, activities?”

“He likes good food a lot, but also has eating disorder issues. I’ve thought about that as an approach myself – but that would be the last one that would work,” Antonia shook her head. “Otherwise, he’s really into music, he’s an excellent piano player and divine dancer.”

“Well, I’d definitely sing for him them,” Catalina laughed.

“I might too, if I were blessed with your lovely alto voice,” Antonia smirked, “but you know full well me singing would ruin even my best existing friendships.”

Nevertheless, Catalina’s words along with Jean-Luc’s warning, she would need to find a different key to open her door with Philip again, kept ringing in her mind without her getting any closer to a solution. It was not until her last afternoon in Matalascanas, after a tiring swim fighting a strong current to get back to the beach then the strenuous walk across the dunes to the shack that suddenly everything fell into place.

Excited and laughing, she stormed into the shack, whirled Catalina around, hugged and kissed you. “Gracias, gracias, gracias … for coming up with the perfect idea of how to interest Philip in me again!”

“But I didn’t suggest anything! Which idea did you come up with?”

“You said to use something he likes, is really good at! I’m going to write him a business plan for our relationship as a venture capital pitch!”

“Ummm, that’s either very creative or totally crazy…”

“No, I’m pretty sure it fits perfectly!” Antonia took a deep breath. “But I’ll sleep over it again, think about it more – I don’t want to make the mistake of doing something head of heels a second time.”

“But what would that look like? Love in a flow chart?”

“Well not exactly, but sort of..,” Antonia pondered. “I’ll start with a mission statement for ‘Philip & Antonia Ltd.’ relationship business, come up with an interesting implementation strategy, some milestones like first private dinner together, advantages of vacation together, etc. Then I have to be really good in the finance part, his field of expertise, with the necessary investments we would need to make, practically and emotionally, maybe add some nice pie charts to this. Of course a good marketing design, how to show the outside world we belong together.

I’ll mail that to him, add a simple post-it note to it, make it look like an authentic business plan, saying something like: ‘I regret my first elevator pitch for ‘Philip&Antonia Ltd.’ went all wrong, but it would be great if you could give the completed business plan a second chance with a quick analysis.’
He normally can’t resist anything that has business on it – it’s the only key I can think of right now which might have a chance of fitting!”


Aged Member
Feb 8, 2007
He normally can’t resist anything that has business on it – it’s the only key I can think of right now which might have a chance of fitting!”

What a "Cunning Little Vixen"; truly a "designing woman". They really do deserve each other.
Brilliant plotting! :bow:


Library Girl
Staff member
Library Mod
Jun 21, 2008
Part 9 – Flagships

Antonia spent the little free time she had before starting at EAFR on working on her ‘Philip&Antonia Ltd.’ business plan, being very conscientious in her wording, trying not to assume or anticipate things Philip might never have seen that way. Instead she took Heather’s advice and used as many of their small scenes and little positive experiences together as illustrations for making her point why she thought they had a future. After sleeping over the final version for three nights, she dropped it into Philip’s mail box the morning she first went to EAFR, knowing the new tasks would at least keep her from brooding.

Jan dropped by on Antonia’s second day at EAFR during her lunch break with a large flower bouquet and a small package, smiling: “The best of luck from Saskia and me! Saskia can’t come because she’s currently in Amsterdam, arranging the details for the fashion show of the store opening there. She’s got some Oranje princess coming, so she’s frazzled with total perfectionist pressure.”

“I thought Philip hat vetoed inviting any royals. At least from what I last saw, he had crossed out all suggestions of the like I made for Brussels, Luxemburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Munich.”

“Yeah he had. Philip oddly is part of the 17% minority of anti-monarchist, decidedly pro-Republic Brits, probably votes LibDems, don’t ask me why,” Jan laughed. “But since it’s her home turf, Saskia went ahead, did her own thing in Amsterdam, actually stood up to Philip saying he wasn’t a local, he couldn’t really tell what would be best on the Dutch market.”

“Saskia stood up to someone? Well good to hear, seems the therapy is working!” Antonia sobered up instantly, asked in a very small voice, “How’s Philip doing?”

Jan rolled her eyes moaning. “To be brutally honest – awfully! He clearly misses you like crazy; it’s painful for us to watch.” – making Antonia cringe until it hurt physically. “Do you know what he did on one of Arthur’s first days? He came into Arthur’s office, your old one, with some paper in his hand saying, ‘Antonia, let’s look at this....’ When he saw Arthur, he looked as if he had been slapped in the face, left without a word and didn’t return to the office until noon the next day, very obviously hung over.”

“Oh god … what have I done….”

“Okay, you staged your biggest communication disaster ever with him. But, you meant well, you did not really go against him. You’ve probably apologized I don’t know how often, you’ve left all doors back to you wide open,” Jan reasoned. “There’s nothing more you can do, he needs to do his part. Philip is a really sweet guy, but not exactly very mature and rational in handling his emotions. His standard response to personal conflicts seems to be retreating into his shell and stuffing himself silly …. but that’s not your fault.”

“Still, I feel so guilty…”

“You shouldn’t Antonia you need to get over that too. If you ask me, I think Philip is currently totally torn whether or not he should somehow find the guts to get back in touch with you. He clearly wants to hear what you’re up to. At the beginning, whenever we talked about you, we immediately shut up when he came in. Then one day he asked Saskia to finish the sentence she had started about you. Now we always make sure he can discreetly eavesdrop if he wants to when we talk about you.”

“Well, the next time you do, you can say I miss everybody at ‘signC’ awfully and am full of remorse….”

“Don’t – use you energy on making the best of everything here at EAFR. Now I have to run, a journalist appointment.”

Since she had a meeting next, Antonia did not open Saskia’s present until the evening when she was in the office alone. “You always need a good friend to have coffee with in a new office…” her small note read. As Antonia opened it, it turned out to be a large, traditional Dutch hot chocolate mug, shaped as a bear girl ballerina in a lilac dress. On seeing the dancing bear, Antonia broke into uncontrollable sobs, hugging the cold mug tight.

The first two weeks at EAFR kept Antonia so busy with meetings, technicalities and familiarizing herself with everything, she had little time to think much about Philip. Despite checking her mobile and e-mail a bit more often than usual, she was secretly grateful for the amount of activity keeping her mentally busy, leaving her physically tired in the evenings, thus keeping a firm lid on her emotional state of mind.

Late in the evening of an unseasonably cold, rainy Sunday, Antonia was packing for work on her third Monday at EAFR as her mobile bleeped. She blindly pressed the inbox: “Most unusual b-plan I’ve ever seen – never knew you could turn that into a business. Rather intriguing, but need more time to think about it. After all, we finance blokes normally only risk others people’s assets, not our own..”

Antonia stared at the phone, slowly grasping the significance of the words and the caller ID, unheard of relief trickling down her insides, feeling as if she could finally breathe again. Hoping time would let her find the right words, she took the phone to bed with her and didn’t answer until over coffee the morning: “Is indeed a pitch for high risk venture capital, so take all the time you need. Feel free to correct my calculations should they be wrong. Let me know if you want to go through the details over coffee…”

Even though they slipped into a pattern of texting each other about every other day with small humorous nonsense, Antonia did not dare call Philip because she was afraid of maybe catching him wrong-footed. Also, she was hosting the first round of meetings of her various country association representatives which left her little free time and leisure to carefully plan such a step.

As she was getting ready to go out with the marketing & distribution delegates from EAFR’s member associations, Antonia one more realized how surprised, bothered and even a bit repulsed she was by the slightly rowdy machismo, borderline chauvinist tone common to many rounds of EAFR representatives. Despite it being the mainly female targeted fashion business with many women working in the industry, also in executive positions, the association’s culture was clearly male dominated – making her notice how much she had taken the political correctness in culture working for an American company for granted.

Catering to this culture, Antonia had grudgingly agreed to spend the evening not with a nice dinner but beer and ‘frites’ at Place Jourdan and ‘Antoine’s’, its legendary ‘friterie’. Styling herself to the occasion in navy skinny jeans and cashmere sweater, new navy Sergio Rossi ankle boots, she played it up to casual chic with a short, flashily zipped burgundy leather coat recently bought in Madrid on the way back from Seville and matching rich dark burgundy Dior lipstick.

At Place Jourdan, she luckily found a parking right on the square and joined her group which had come by taxi. Making sure some reserved seats at the corner bar while others got in line at Antoine’s booth, Antonia stood back a little and surveyed whether everyone was taken care of. In doing so, a large figure caught her eye beyond the friterie, leaning against the low metal railing around one of the smallish, a bit crippled trees eating a large portion of frites.

Looking a second time, Antonia realized in pleasant shock it was indeed Philip.

Her pulse quickened, warm happiness rose in her, but her feet stayed rooted in cold uncertainty. One part of her wanted to run over and hug him tight, the other was deadly afraid of making any move fearing it might be the wrong one again. Philip seemed to have discovered her too, looked in her direction, looked away but almost immediately looked back and gave her a small wave. This set her feet going and she walked briskly over to him.

“Bon soir Philip, I’m so happy to see you,” Antonia couldn’t resist to cheek kiss him in greeting, savoring the delicious soft feel of his chubby cheeks against hers. Stepping back she smiled at him, quietly drinking in the sight of his handsome plump features and big frame, well covered by a trench coat.

“Really nice to meet you. You look very well,” he responded softly, looking at her intensely until he blushed, saying with a small grin: “I always thought you were against the entire Belgian ‘frites’ culture.”

Antonia laughed. “You’re right about that – I like my potatoes mashed, in the oven with herbs, baked with a spicy dairy product, au gratin, dauphinois, as Knödel, Gnocchi, homemade salad or whatever… But I’m here with an EAFR meeting, the guys wanted to go for beer and frites, so I’ll play along. May I steal one of yours?”

“Help yourself to as much as you like, it’s probably better that way,” Philip grimaced slightly. “How are you doing? How are your first experiences at EAFR?”

“It’s very different, in some aspects not quite what I expected, despite having known the association for a while from the outside,” Antonia was exceedingly grateful he asked because she was tongue tied by his presence, her mind felt void of any meaningful conversation pieces. “I really like the EU policy parts, looking at the different country aspects – but the institutional stuff is not my cup of tea. I miss everything and everybody at ‘signC’ a lot.”

“We miss you a lot too,” Philip mumbled this so softly Antonia wasn’t even sure she had heard correctly as he went on. “But we’re seeing you at the opening of our flagship store here in Brussels are we not … in 10 days? Did you get the invitation?”

“Invitation? I’m not sure … I only remember the general announcement with the introductory folder….”

“But you’re coming, aren’t you…?” touched by his barely suppressed eagerness Antonia nodded smiling: “I’ll double check the date and do my best.”

“Oh here you are Antonia, we’ve been looking all over for you,” a voice said next to her. “We’ve all got our chips now… they’re fab …, Desmond Jameson,” he stretched his hand out to Philip.

“Philip Watherwood..”

“Looks like you’ve been here a while already in Brussels, mate,” Desmond guffawed and slapped Philip square in the middle, “too many frites, too many beers … lets that gut get huge …”

Philip turned almost purple with embarrassment, visible even in the dim light, while Antonia said sweetly: “Well Desmond, looks like you’ve in contrast been in Brussels now the longest you’ll ever be. You have just successfully disqualified yourself for our spokesperson position you were so keen on…, I’ll be right over with all of you.” Turning to Philip, she cheek kissed him good-bye: “We’ll see each other at ‘signC’s’ opening then,” whispering in his ear: “Loved seeing and talking to you.”

Antonia was already at her desk the next morning, checking e-mail before the meeting rounds as Desmond Jameson came in, fiddling nervously with his hands before he said: “Antonia, I’m sorry about yesterday evening, I had a bit too much to drink …. Belgian beers are dangerously good…”

“Ok, thank you for coming to apologize. See you in the meeting.”

Uncertainly, Desmond stayed standing in front of Antonia’s desk. “You weren’t serious about me not getting the spokesperson position here, were you? That was a joke … because it’s all arranged with our association, isn’t it?”

“I’m very sorry to have to say that was no joke, Desmond,” Antonia shook her head. “You personally insulted a complete stranger on first sight yesterday evening. That is inexcusable for someone who wants to be EAFR’s spokesman.”

“Come on, it was a lame fat joke among us lads! He’s a Brit too, isn’t he? He’ll know how to take it! And he’ll know I had too much to drink…”

“Just because he might have the same passport as you do, does not enable you to make a sound judgment regarding his attitudes and feelings. We cannot have anybody as a spokesperson with whom there is only the slightest doubt that his or her communication skills are up to par in every situation…”

“It was a joke Antonia! It’s not about you’re bl***y American political correctness! You don’t understand, that’s the way we lads talk to each other, you don’t know the culture….”

“No – you don’t understand Desmond.” Antonia’s voice turned cutting. “I know enough about so-called ‘laddism’ to know it’s a self-styled ‘culture’ to cover for bad manners. And I can assure you Philip Watherwood, despite being British is definitely not partial to your crude brand of ‘laddism’ humor, while he is CEO of ‘signC’, one of our members here at EAFR, which makes your gaffe…”

“F***ing shit no, he’s CEO of one of our members!” Desmond groaned. “Understand your point much better now. I’m sorry, it was too much beer, didn’t know what I was saying… it will not happen again…”

“Desmond, that’s no good as an excuse. Not being able to handle your liquor as a man is considered unacceptable in most continental business environments. For women it’s even stricter. That’s a major difference between English and continental culture by now – you people on your island are much more tolerant regarding drunken excess as acceptable adult behavior. But no matter how you look at it, from our perspective here, this incident disqualifies you.”

“Well, you need a British representative on the board!”

“Yes, of course I do. I thought about that last night. EAFR could use a vice-president from every one of the five big European fashion markets, so we should institute a UK seat too. Reg Harrington would certainly be negotiable for that post on account of your federation, or not?”

“Harrington? He’s decidedly anti-European! Are you joking?”

“Well, better a cultured professional highly qualified anti-EU Brit than one where I never know which drunken insults he might be peddling around town!”

Before joining the others in the meeting, Antonia called Jan to find out about the invitation to ‘signC’s’ store opening in Brussels. Jan sounded uneasy: “You met Philip and he asked you about an invitation which you haven’t received yet? Well, all invitations have been out for two weeks by now. He put you on his personal list, he has the special invites – you sure haven’t received one? Shall I double-check with him?”

“No, Jan, thanks, please don’t. I’ll double-check – my mail here still is pretty messed up.”

On getting home that evening, Antonia found the invitation in her private mail box, simply ‘Antonia’ inserted as addressee in Philip’s neat slanted hand-writing.

Five days before the event, Antonia received the first e-mail from Philip again to her private account: Please excuse my disturbing - could you maybe take a look at my opening speech Jan and I wrote. Do not know why- something does not feel right about it for me….

Knowing work was Philip’s way of dealing with things Antonia was delighted and spent two nights working on it before she answered: Very good solid business speech. But it’s not necessarily you, I can see that. Since you’re normal brilliant numbers approach is not really fitting for a festive opening, I’ve been so bold to attach a very different option … see if you can work with it. You’ll need to add some details yourself, since that’s more your field of expertise.

The evening of ‘signC’s’ opening Antonia was exceedingly nervous. She had reconsidered her attire at least a dozen times, in the end opting for the off the shoulder dull royal blue wrap shift Saskia had resized for Heather, surmising a ‘signC’ piece would be the most appropriate. Then she agonized for a week over the exact styling, in the last minute forsaking the sophisticated version of complicated up-do and patent leather high-heels for the more relaxed version of casual brushed back waves and curls, kitten heels and her grandmother’s Art Deco fashion jewelry.

Still, she noticed her hands were cold and shaking as she entered ‘signC’s’ new premises on Avenue Louise, so she gladly accepted the offered glass of champagne to calm her nerves. As she started to gulp it down, she saw Philip at the other end of the room toasting her also with a glass of champagne, which he poured down in one swig giving her an imploring glance showing crossed fingers. Antonia could tell how nervous he was since he was very pale, so she signaled back reassuringly and let herself be lead to her reserved seat in the front row along a makeshift catwalk.

The bell rang, the lights faded and even Antonia was surprised not to see Philip standing in front of the room at a lectern, but sitting at a piano on the side, starting out by playing the first lines of the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ in a jazzy variation: “Ladies and gentlemen, Mesdames et Messieurs, Damens en Heerens, welcome, bienvenue, welkom, to the opening of ‘signC’ here in Brussels. Just so you’re not confused by my accent … this evening is all about a major American fashion brand opening up its first store in what considers itself the capital of Europe.”

Laughter and applause greeted this introduction giving Antonia the chance to survey Philip more closely. He still was nervously pale, but looked more comfortable sitting at the piano, playing a bit while talking. Seeing that he actually was wearing the shirt and bow-tie combination she and Saskia had come up with for the Antwerp reception filled her with unspeakable tenderness for him. The black suit he was wearing with it was a bit looser than it had been then, but fit alright and showed he was clearly rounder again than he had been at the end of his summer diet vacation.

Moving on to a different jazzy tune, Philip continued to explain ‘signC’s’ approach to women’s wear, what it wanted to introduce to the European market – using the framework of Antonia’s speech with the analogy of music styles spreading from the US to Europe to its full extent. He clearly had put quite some work into it himself, selecting nice pieces of music as examples, explain their significance and how they referred to the fashion presented on the catwalk by the models. As he warmed to his theme, became more and more confident, Antonia felt herself get all starry eyed in admiration.

During the short intermission for changing the back drop of the catwalk for the second half of the fashion, Jean-Luc slipped himself a chair next to Antonia: “Géniale cette idée,” kissing her hand. “You couldn’t have made him happier, he was dreading this first opening with the speech he had to deliver. What gave you the idea to make him comfortable by being able to hide behind the piano?”

“Actually, Philip took my idea all the way with that,” Antonia beamed at him. “I had just written the speech with the music analogy, asking him to choose the best examples because he knows more about the music history and significance than I do. In that context, I also said it might be good to include some of the music into the selection for the défilée, but I never dreamed he would go ahead and play himself.”

Jean-Luc winked at her. “It shows how well you understand him after all. He’s only fine with presenting in public if he can talk about endless financial reports or hide behind a piano. Since the first is totally déplacé in a fashion show, you wisely paved the way to the second option. En plus, it gives the not-really-exciting event of a store opening a unique touch – even if it isn’t the most CEO-like behavior.”


Library Girl
Staff member
Library Mod
Jun 21, 2008
The final round of applause for the show and Philip’s presentation made Antonia clap wildly and confirmed Jean-Luc’s assessment that a CEO playing the music to the show was going to cause some publicity since Philip was immediately surrounded by journalists and photographers while Jan had her hands full in having to deal with all requests. Antonia decided to mingle a bit before she went to congratulate Saskia to free her from too much unasked for attention.

“I should be mad at and jealous of you that Philip chose your speech, because that’s my job now.” Jan smiled at Antonia later as they had time to talk. “But things went so well, he was so much happier and more confident than I had expected, so that’s good…”

“I did ask you beforehand whether you were okay with it….”

“Yes, you did – and seeing the result, I’m now truly fine with it. You know so much better how he feels than I do – plus, you’re a lot better at the creative framework of speeches than I am…”

“You’re in contrast a much better, more precise business writer than I am.”

“Thanks. Best of all though, it’s good to see you and Philip are in positive communications again. We’ve all been starting to think whether we needed to lock the two of you in a broken elevator to get you to talk again!”

Antonia took a long sip of champagne: “I can’t tell you how relieved I’m about that either!”

Towards the end of the evening, Philip came over to Antonia who was talking to Arthur and Saskia, murmured half in her ear: “We still need to speak about that business plan of yours…” while running a hand down her back and over her hip making all her hair stand on end in electric shock.

“Tonight … you want to talk about that tonight, after this long and stressful evening?”

“Evening went very well courtesy your speech, we’ve a bottle of champagne to finish, a piano … everybody will be gone soon… do you have other plans?”

“No, you’re right … this is a good set up to talk about our business,” Antonia smiled at him still wondering whether she had heard correctly, as Arthur and Saskia politely excused themselves. As he ushered the last guest out and bade the staff good night after they had closed the blinds, Antonia found the champagne in its cooler and washed two glasses before she arranged them next to the piano and settled herself on its bench, leaving enough room for Philip.

He carefully lowered himself next to her, while she poured two glasses of champagne, handing him one: “Chin-chin, to a brilliant launch of ‘signC’ here in Brussels – and many more to come!”

“Yeah, I’m going to drive all planners crazy in the stores I have to open by asking for a piano every time,” Philip smirked and bent over to kiss her naked shoulders. “What would I do without your ideas?”

“As you know, I don’t want you to have to do without my ideas. Just as I don’t want to have to do without you,” she gave him a fleeting kiss before he started to play: “Do you mind if I play while we talk?”

Knowing this made him feel much more comfortable, Antonia softly stroked his cheek: “No, absolutely not, it’s lovely and a very special part of you.”

“Like I already said, most mad business plan I’ve ever seen. What gave you the idea such a business would be feasible and worthwhile?”

“Well, first of all, it’s a type of business most people are interested in starting,” Antonia was a bit taken aback that he seemed intent on discussing the issue as if it were a real business proposal in third person, but decided to play along since she sensed the level of abstraction would make it easier for him.
“It first crossed my mind that you could be a potential personal business opportunity I needed to take a second look at directly as you poured coffee over me at Arts-Loi. Since we met right again with you coming to ‘signC’, I quickly found out you’re the best possible business partner for me I’ve ever met. We seemed to have a connection - which unfortunately led me to rashly assume you would immediately understand my maneuvers.”

“Jean-Luc convinced me you mean well, I needn’t be so skeptical, should talk to you … and I guess you know how much I like reading business plans…”

Antonia let out a small guilty laugh, ran her hand through his hair. “Thank you for making this first investment in our potential business by trusting me again.”

“Now what do you actually expect from this business?”

“You read the b-plan with the examples – it’s not much different from what we had at ‘signC’: Time together to talk, work, eat, dance, go places, enjoying each other’s company, exploring new things …. that always worked well with us, didn’t it? I got the feeling we might have little more there than casual friends…”

“Friends.. yes, I always hoped for that. I could never really see you as my employee….” Philip shifted uneasily.

“I had an even bigger problem seeing you only as my boss…” Antonia softly kissed him on the cheek.

“But what about those investments we need to make? I told you we finance people mainly invest other people’s assets…. I don’t have very many to offer, I don’t know what you expect…”

“Philip most of the assets you have to invest in such a business are normal ones everyone has, like time, interest, understanding,” Antonia explained carefully. “You tend to underestimate the assets you have to offer. You’ve always been so sweet, so thoughtful … if I just remember the very first time, when you went and figured out where I bought my suit, got me a gift certificate to replace it. 98 out of 100 men would just have given me their insurance contact data – and 80 out of 100 bosses would have overlooked the entire incident after finding out they were my superior.”


“Positively! You’re wonderful with such things….”

“But so are you! Think of the fantastic speech you wrote for me tonight… what does ‘signC’ owe you?”

Antonia kissed him fully on the lips and said softly: “Shut up! That was a personal favor from me to you, not to ‘signC’! Now back to the assets. There are some were we’ll both need to make some serious investments. For me that will definitely be patience, that’s not my forte. But I’m willing to make a serious effort, maybe issue some patience bonds if you help me….”

Philip let out a small laugh: “Okay, I can see more patience on your side might be helpful..”

“In turn, can you see yourself maybe investing more trust? Maybe raising a mortgage in trust on my behalf – and also in trusting yourself?”

“That might not be easy, I could maybe try….,” Philip sighed.

“If we both do that, it shouldn’t be too difficult to accumulate the necessary investments for our business. I think we already have a pretty solid base…”

“Well, ummm, but such a business also normally has …umm… physical aspects. Are you aware of those?” Philip mumbled almost inaudibly, swallowing hard.

“Yes, I’m extremely and very happily aware of those physical aspects. I’m fully confident they will be a wonderful element in our business,” Antonia let her lips brush over his plump cheek.

“How can you assume that? That’s one major flaw in your b-plan, based on wishful thinking instead of realistic analysis ….”

“Philip, did you never notice that I often moved in physically much closer, touched you more than was appropriate for an employee with her boss?”

“Yeah, I noticed.”

“What did you think why I did that? Why did you never say anything about it?”

“Ummm, I guess I thought it was American… and I never said anything because it… well… it was nice,” Philip blushed.

“It’s definitely not American,” Antonia giggled lightly. “In the US you can end up in a harassment case way to easily. If it’s anything cultural, it’s more Southern European, there’s more touching there. But actually I did it because you have such a strong physical attraction on me, I can’t get you close enough…”

“How can you possibly be attracted to me?” Philip muttered scornfully.

Antonia knew this was the crucial point: She needed to convince him of her serious attraction to him physically without making any references to his size, choosing her words carefully to not use any Philip might find offensive, hurtful or misunderstand.
“Because you have all the assets I’m looking for in a business partner,” she said gently, leaning her head against his. “You have these great broad shoulders which make me feel so comfortable. I love physical power and presence in a man- leaning here against you just feels perfect, makes me all warm and fuzzy. Then you’re a divine dancer, an excellent piano player- so being around you is high-quality time. Not to mention those gorgeous green eyes … which are again wasting time looking skeptical … We had already established the fact you’re a professional hand model, I need to find out everything these hands can do …” putting her rather small one on one of his.

Even though his features had softened while she spoke, Antonia perceived fear and doubt in the short glance Philip gave her, so she went on: “… and the little I’ve got to taste of these here definitely want me to try more.” – kissing him more intensely on the lips again.
He turned his head and responded to her kiss, gliding one arm around her waist, pulling her closer and continuing to play on with only one hand. She carefully opened up, let him explore as deeply as he wanted, letting themselves get wrapped into the first moment of true intimacy. As he pulled back he inhaled deeply and closed his eyes.

Using his distraction, she asked: “Now tell me, why do you seem to be considering starting this business with me?”

“What? Any man in his right mind would like to start a business with you!”

“That most likely is an incorrect generalization. At least 50% of your male compatriots would veto such a business with me simply because I’m half-Kraut,” Antonia teased. “For others I might be too tall, too near-sighted, too difficult, too shopping obsessed … whatever. Can you honestly see yourself starting a business with someone who is tone-deaf? Which reasons do you have?”

Philip let out a little laugh. “I’ll be happy to work on your musical education, I’m certain we can do something about that,” going on in a more serious tone, while running his lips over her shoulders. “It’s simply lovely to have you close, you’re gorgeous, you’re so considerate in small things, you’re such a good cook, .. I’ve never had that, it’s like, well, it’s like someone cares …”

“That’s because I care for you very much … and I’ll be happy to take even better care of you if you let me…” Antonia let him kiss her deeply again, very carefully slipping her hands under his coat brushing them along his round middle, getting seriously aroused feeling his abundant bulk straining against the thin fabric.

“It’s getting late, we should think of leaving…I’ll go get your coat,” Philip murmured.

“I’ll call us a taxi…” Antonia pulled out her mobile. After he had helped her into her coat, softly nuzzling her neck, she turned and tried to wrap her arms around his middle. He caught and put them around his neck, while pulling her close around the waist, running his hands over her hips and gently grabbing her buttocks, kissing her again and then running his lips down to her well displayed cleavage, hiding his face between her breasts.

“Mmmmmh, so you’re interested in an advance payment for our business too,” Antonia purred, running both hands through his hair and gently rolling the small bulge of flesh at the back of his neck.

“Advance payment? What kind of advance payment?” Philip mumbled as they got into the taxi quickly to dodge the pouring rain and she gave her address.

“Just a little advance on the physical pleasures of our business, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Antonia whispered and leaned into him for another kiss.

“Taking assets out of a business before it’s really taken off is never a good idea,” Philip mumbled between two kisses.

Antonia half settled on his knee wrapping herself tightly around him to feel him as fully as possible: “There’s plenty of this asset, no harm will be down,” her arousal leading her to start nibbling on his little double-chin while her hands ran along his belt-line in the back to his love-handles where she firmly took a first grab into his pliable flesh, inhaling sharply at the pleasurable feel.

“Do not do that!” Philip jumped.

“Pardon Madame,…. the Belliard tunnel ahead is closed ….” the taxi driver interrupted.

“Take any route, it doesn’t matter, go via Parc Léopold III,” Antonia quickly told him before turning back to Philip, kissing him and murmuring softly, “It’s okay, I didn’t mean to hurt you, you just feel so warm and good,” as he pulled her tight by the waist, placing her hands around his neck again.

While kissing, Philip’s thick torso kept beckoning Antonia seductively and she started gliding her hands down his back, under his coat, this time not squeezing his love-handles but carefully pulling his shirt out of his waistband, slipping her hands underneath, finally getting the chance to touch his soft naked skin, smooth over the firm padding on his back: “Mon Dieu, you have no idea how wonderful you feel,” Antonia purred.

Philip was too preoccupied to have fully noticed, since he had pulled her dress further off her shoulders and started kissing her breasts. Antonia let her hands explore not only his back, but also the softer, thicker, more forgiving fat roles on his sides. Moving up, she finally reached the particularly tender ones under his arms, the cuddly extensions of his man boobs to his back. Feeling how plump and juicy they were, she couldn’t resist and squeezed deeply, her fingers reaching out for the nipples on his fleshy chest, moaning in the physical delight of the sensation swooping down between her legs.

As if he had been touched by red-hot iron, Philip bucked and tore her hands out from under his shirt, thrusting them in her lap: “How dare you! Humiliating me so much in a situation like this!”

“But Philip I didn’t mean to …”

“You don’t need to remind me, I know it’s f***ing revolting! Don’t you have any respect for me? I warned you – I knew you couldn’t take the unpleasant truth of the physical aspects…”

“Philip will you please lis….”

“Forget it, I’ve had more than enough of this! Why could I ever think you’d be different? It’s always the same, no woman can stand my bl***y ….” opening the taxi door as it stopped at a red light, pushing Antonia off and heaving himself out, walking away as fast as he could in the pouring rain.

“Arrêtez!” Antonia yelled at the driver who took off as the light turned green, only to notice she had lost one shoe. Before she could find it in the dark taxi, Philip had already turned the corner and was gone.

Dumb-founded, hurt and miserable, Antonia had the taxi take her home. There she paced her apartment for a while before she wrote Philip a text: “Sincerely sorry if I hurt your feelings by being impatient again. My touch wanted to show you nothing but my love for every little part of you- that’s all. Please honestly try to believe me!”

She slept fitfully only to be woken at 5:30 a.m. by the bleeping of her mobile: “I apologize for my behavior, I totally overreacted. Believing and trusting are just not my strong points…”
Dec 30, 2008
Your updates are torturous! Every installment of this story leaves me absolutely desperate for more. You'd think such lovely chapters would sate me for a while, but you write so beautifully that I could go on reading for days. Update as fast as you can- I'm dying for the next installment of this fantastic work already!

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