The chosen lace.


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Recipe for a “Fluffy Duck” cocktail.

Pour the Cointreau into a chilled margarita glass one-quarter filled with crushed ice.
Add the Advocaat, and slowly fill with lemonade and other ingredients.
Stir & serve.

1 part of Advocaat.   (30 ml)

1 part of Cointreau.  (30 ml)

Splash of gin.

Splash of orange.

Spoon of cream.

Top up with lemonade.

1/4 cup of ice, crushed

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Chapter 1. 'The lacelady'.

The Lacelady sat across the room from me, with a hand firmly clutching each of her breasts.  Slowly, and while holding my gaze with an unflinching stare, she purposefully moved her breasts up, then down, and then to the left. Following that, she moved them both to the right. Then she moved one up and one down. And the reverse. It was a clear message that she was sending me, pointedly reminding me that she had breasts and that I did not. This was her way of publically stating that she had a competitive advantage in the intimate business of lace sales; that she would always know the products of bras and lingerie better than I would.

And yet, whilst still holding her stare, I reached a hand down inside the front of my business shirt and was able to reply to her silent statement with a retaliative gesture. From deep down, tucked in tightly between my skin and the fine woven cotton I slowly pulled out a delicate piece of French Chantilly lace.  I had placed this lace down inside the front of my shirt earlier in order to test the softness of this new pattern against my skin. In revealing this lace to her now in this way, I had sent a message back to The Lacelady that although she had the market place advantage of breasts, I could still competently compete with her in this intimate and lacey business.

Our lace-locked gaze was broken only when the lace buyer, in whose reception area we sat and whom we were both there to visit, called me in to his office for our scheduled meeting. As I then departed the reception area to follow the buyer down the corridor, The Lacelady remained firmly seated still clutching a breast in each hand and trying to again lock my gaze and send me another non-verbal message about lingerie. I had no doubt she was also feeling impressed by my intimate relationship with lace after I had just proudly demonstrated it to her a moment ago. This was to be the first of many intense encounters between me, The Laceman, and the new arrival into our city’s bra and lingerie business, The Lacelady.

After a mildly stressful and yet quietly successful sales meeting with the buyer, where I had presented him with the body-temperature piece of new French lace, I left his meeting room and strode purposefully back through the reception area. The Lacelady was still seated in the same chair as earlier, still clutching a breast in each of her well manicured hands and she tried once more to catch my gaze as I sauntered past her. I was in no mood to rekindle our silent booby battle whilst on a new sales high, so I nonchalantly dragged my roller case over her manicured toes as I passed by her and then continued out of the building into the bright light of the day.

The visitor’s parking bay, located just outside this company’s head office, was marked out on the ground in an uncommon shape for a car space. Located adjacently to the front door of the office building, the two visitor parking spaces had been creatively painted to be in the shape of a large full-cup bra and the two painted bra cups themselves were generous enough in both width and depth to hold even larger sized vehicles like mine. 

Waiting there for me, parked in the nearest of the two car parking cups was The Lacevan, my customised lace sales vehicle. The van had started its life as a carpenter’s work van before being purchased at auction and then completely over-hauled to become a mobile underwear provedore machine, the only one of its kind in the city. I scanned the parking lot for any other vehicle that The Lacelady may try to introduce to rival to The Lacevan’s on-road fashion status, though there was no other artisan van to be seen.

In earlier seasons of lace sales, my work vehicle had been both demur and versatile, simply being a common car that could equally transport my lace ranges by day and could also move people about after hours on private trips. Its limitations were revealed on occasions though, when passengers were forced to complete for seating space with inflexible mannequins and when any harsh braking would see them covered in bras falling forwards from behind them. With some recent sales success though, there came the opportunity to run two separate customised vehicles, one each for private and for lace sales use.

After years spent carefully studying how other tradesmen re-modelled their work vehicles to become moving offices and optimum work spaces, I could finally do the same with my own euro-van. On purchasing a long Italian commercial vehicle, this new high load beauty was custom fitted from end to end, complete with plush hand stitched leather chairs befitting of a mobile boardroom and allowing the seating position of ‘chairman of the van.’ Inside this new mobile fashion icon, high-stakes lingerie development business would be conducted, fine laces would be sold to exclusive bra makers and the seeds of revolution of lingerie design would be sewn.

In designing The Lacevan, we were aware of the need to compromise on some visual elements as though we needed to style the van to be highly appealing for lace sales and lingerie development, we also needed to ensure we did not over reach on the styling as well.  Too much curvy shaping of the van’s body work or too many promotional images of lingerie painted on the vans exterior would result in too much general attention in the street. Over reaching would result in too many unwanted faces peering in through the windows during sales meetings and perhaps too many entry attempts from joy riders as well.

The van, whilst needing to be lacey looking, needed to remain a business-to-business van only. Stories abounded in the international lace trade regarding earlier follies of ill conceived Lacevans. In Italy, as told anecdotally, some Lacemen in Turin, Milan and Rome had driven Lacevans successfully for several seasons before being lured by some easy sales that came from trading directly to the general public. These Lacemen, though they had started well in proper bulk-lace sales, had often found themselves, usually later in life, driving slowly along the tourist streets plying their diminishing trade there, or simply parking their Lacevans behind the Gelati vans in crowded tourist areas. Eventually they were lost to the larger market, reduced to eking out a meagre living just selling lace by the cone.

Their mistake had been to design and build their Lacevans to be too suitable for road-side lace sales by opening up a side window to the street. Some of them fell further into this trap and played piped music in the streets to further lure the local masses to their cones of lace.  Villagers would hear the captivating music and run after these vans hoping for some vanilla or chocolate ice-cream in a cone, only to find that what was on sale instead were just cones of vanilla or chocolate coloured lace. Some villagers initially found this upsetting, especially on the very hot days, though for others who happened to need some new lace to make fresh underwear for them-self, they found these ‘G-string Giuseppe’ vans to be very useful.

In light of this worrying Lacevan history, and even though side windows may have seemed appropriate, no lacey window curtains would be installed into The Lacevan. No sliding glass window would be opened to the street either. For similar reasons there were no lace doilies placed on the backs of the Lacevan’s seats either, despite them being made from traditional lace and seemingly being visually appropriate for this trade. The Lacevan was a machine for driving towards the future, where lace trends were seeded and lace designs were sketched and developed on-line for future lingerie seasons.  Doilies were replaced by downloads and the Lacevan was geared for hunting down only the largest of lace orders.

The Lacevan’s exterior bodywork had been recently spray painted by local street artists and was re-born on to the highways in the base color shade of # 13-X564, a dark charcoal colour with Lurex highlights. The interior of the van featured soft cow hide leather, trimmed with a hand-upholstered and laminated cotton flounce that was eco-dyed in the Spanish capitol to become an attractive shade of deep purple. For the exterior design motif, the argument over what graphic design to paint onto the van had boiled and bubbled in the office for several days earlier. The previous owner had preferred a series of large flames burning down the side of the van, though this seemed inappropriate for the van’s current use.

The artists themselves had requested that we grant them full artistic licence with their design work, though after seeing the edgy graphics on the bottoms of their skateboards we worried over the way they may portray lace and lingerie both in a larger scale and also in a more publically visible image. The women in the office insisted on having an input into the van’s design also, in case that they would find themselves behind the wheel of the Lacevan for work trips.  Several initial body-work designs were put forward for consideration, with most of them being summarily rejected by the artists as being too passé, until one design put forward by an elder staff-member was agreed on, it being a lace based 3-D image that appeared to explode from the engine bay and stitch its way backwards along each side of the van towards the two rear doors. There, painted on the rear doors also, was a bold image of a large hook & eye set which looked as though it kept the van’s doors tightly fastened.

Swinging The Lacevan’s two rear doors open now, the lace ranges just shown today were smoothly and easily slid back into their designated storage positions and were locked into place inside custom storage units towards the rear of the van. All that was needed now to ensure The Lacevan was well utilised and remained financially viable in the long term was to convince more of the lace buyers to leave their office desks and enter the van for meetings. This was generally done by chocolate, with a variety of dark, milk and white varieties stored in a compact car-fridge that was over-flowing with the best Belgian, Dutch and Swiss treats available.

Up until now, the van, together with its lace and chocolate ranges, had just been servicing the clients of our local city, though after a recent engine upgrade, there were plans for a national lacey road tour in the future also.

Before leaving the car park, I took a moment to dwell quietly in the van for a while and fill in a sample order sheet with notes from the earlier meeting.  With so many chocolates easily at hand it became a smudgy afternoon and many of the lace samples were soon in danger of becoming too soiled for use. With some eventual restraint over the endless supply of chocolate, I managed to finish writing up the meeting notes and left that sample order filed for the moment on the van’s central work bench.

Through the center of the custom modified van ran a well appointed oak table and seating arrangement where lace buyers, up to three at a time, could each take a seat and see displayed right before them the world’s latest laces, embroideries and fabrics. On the other side of the table, also firmly mounted to the floor was a soft leather high back swivel chair. This bespoke chair allowed both reclining and also 360 degree swivelling access to all the surrounding textile ranges that were hung on the various sales racks across the width of the van.

In the very center of the display table was a secret sliding panel, which, upon the pulling of a discrete lever would drop down under the desk and be replaced with a pair of prosthetic breasts.  For on any occasion when a client would ask how a lace would look when shaped around a bust, the unseen lever could be abruptly pulled and this firm prosthetic bust, a size 14-D, would rise up through the center of the table before them. The buyer or designer sitting at the van’s table could then stretch their selected textile sample over the bust and envisage the design as it would appear in a garment shape or on a woman’s body.

So sophisticated was this hand-crafted prosthetic bust that it offered a range of different nipple diameters and lengths that buyers could change to suit their visual preferences. This adjustable set of screw-on nipples was almost completely intact, except for the one pair of 1½“ sized nipples that had been removed from the boxed set and were currently being used on the van’s dash-board to hold parking permits in place against the windscreen.

For mood enhancing music to play either during transit or during any in-van sales meetings, there was a built in music system in the dashboard that had a single CD option. Unfortunately though, one particular CD was jammed into the disc unit permanently, thus greatly limiting the variety of music available. The previous owner of the van perhaps had inadvertently spilt glue onto this particular CD before inserting it into the player, thus making ‘Barry White’s greatest hits’ the only option of music currently available in the van for any and for all sales meetings. One day, I hoped, when textile sales were again improved further, we would be able to afford to overhaul the music system of The Lacevan and so be able to offer our buyers a wider music choice to accompany our sales meetings. For now though, Barry White would be the music track in use for all lace and bra development and sales meetings. In some small way I was grateful that his music was, at least in part, industry related.

The fluffy dice that had kitschingly swung from the rear-view mirror earlier had recently been replaced with a fluffy quarter cup bra, and on the radio aerial we had attached a half meter piece of a jacquardtronic galloon lace in a soft cobalt colour. This way, people would know from our outward appearance as we passed them in the fast lane that this was indeed the Laceman’s van, that we were doing bulk lacey business and that we were enthusiastically driving all over town to help support breasts everywhere.

Carefully reversing now out of the parking cup space, I hit ‘play’ and turned the van into the steady city traffic to ride south towards the next meeting, singing all the while to an all too familiar song.

Baby you know I'm nasty by nature
Just when you thought that it was safe
I'll come along with a new twist
I'll share my wildest fantasies
You never thought it would be like this
Anytime and anyplace
Oh yes
Not a second of time will go to waste
Everyday there's a little treat
We can be loud or discreet.

I know you can't tell from the outside
But baby there is plenty in store
You know I'm as shy as they come girl
Until I get behind closed doors.

Hearing this intimate song fill the cabin space yet again now, I reflected on the most recent occasion when this particular song had played through the van’s speakers. It had been during a long and productive, almost reproductive, meeting with a good client some weeks before now. On that heady occasion, soon after all the sales ranges had been viewed and a lace order had finally been written up, I was held down on the table in the middle of the van by the effervescent buyer. She was demanding that we seal our deal for a French lace with a French kiss. During the subsequent tussle in which we had ended up in a horizontal position on the van’s desk, the buyer had inadvertently kicked the hidden lever with her shoeless heel and the prosthetic bust had risen up under my back, its 1 ¼” nipples pushing sharply into my shoulder blades.

The buyer’s own enthusiastic nipples were by then hovering closely above me also and soon after they were being pushed harder and harder into my chest from the front, pinning me there, trapping me in a nipple sandwich.  Some of those many nipples pressing into me were soft, whilst others felt firm and hard. All of them seemed immovable. Business in The Lacevan had started briskly and the van was proving at least on some early occasions to have been a good financial investment.

Passing close by our own office on the road towards the day’s next sales meeting, a favourite local café looked relatively quiet at a glance as I drove the van by it. I chanced that I could pick up a quick coffee on the way through to the next sales meeting in the North.  By the time the van was securely parked in a side street and the café’s enticing grungy door was reached on foot though, the café’s quiet moment as evidenced earlier had become a rather more busy time and there would now be a lengthy wait for the coffee to be brewed and for the milk to be steamed. Jordan, the barista, had only to sight me in his café to know that a firm coffee order was placed and so I could just sit alone and slouch solo, far from the counter and away from the milling and swirling café crowd who were also impatiently waiting for their caffeine fix to be prepared.  This quiet moment allowed some free time to ponder what Jordan would use for my call-up phrase of today and I knew that whatever that call-up name happened to be, that should I choose to resist it, or ignore it, then I would not be receiving a coffee from him today.

Soon enough there were call-ups for a Paul, John and Jurgen and also for Sally, Dot and Melodie who all quickly strolled to the café counter in turn, quivering like mild addicts as they did, and collecting their freshly prepared brews before heading back into the city street to relieve their symptoms of with-drawl.

Then there was a louder call from Jordan at the counter which pricked by ear.
“A latte …for God,” was the new call that arced its way across the café’s sparse room.
“A latte for God! That who this is for, it’s for the one who calls himself God,” Jordan called out, looking all the while nonplussed and rather nonchalant as though this coffee call was quite usual for him to say.
“Are you God?” he asked blankly as I tentatively reached out to pick up this latte from the café counter top.
“Yes I am,” I replied with a sigh, “If calling myself ‘God’ means you will hand over the coffee to me.”
“There you are then, God, and bless you,” he added with an ironic twist.

I slunk back into the café’s designated wobbly wooden chair that was reserved for those who like to drink their take-away coffees in-house, and then reached into a coat pocked for the phone. With a flick of a finger across its smooth glass surface, several files appeared. One of them said ‘purchase order’ and this purchase order said someone was ordering five thousands meters of ‘colour-change’ embroidery in the colors of blue & ivory. For this, I would make around five hundred and fifty dollars in commission-income. I wondered if this amount of money would be sufficient to pay an auto-electrician to wrench the jammed Barry White CD from the van’s music player and allow a more varied music choice whilst driving about town in future. I looked forward to offering all buyers a wide range of music to choose from, and would ensure that each of them would have a style of music suitable to the image of their own lingerie brand.

Hoping that this casual flicking motion across the phone’s glass screen may pleasantly result in another P.O. receipt, I flicked another new email file open, only to read there then that a different buyer was complaining of an earlier lace shipment that was delivered too blue in shade and would need some re-dye fixing at our expense. Leaving that claim matter to be addressed later I pushed the phone to my side to be out of view, only to realise too late that Jordan had done an excellent job with his café table polishing earlier that morning. The expensive device did not slide to a stop just to the left as planned, but it embraced the slippery surface, slid smoothly to the end of the café table and then onto the floor, crashing down onto the shiny polished concrete.

Miraculously the glass screen was not broken by the fall, but as I reached a hand down to pick it up and dust it off, an open toed shoe with a sharp heel appeared into my view just above the phone. As I watched then, this heeled shoe, which had a lace pattern sewn into it and which was fitted onto a foot neatly encased in a lace stocking, suddenly dropped downwards. The heel’s hard point went crashing through the glass screen, shattering the fragile phone into dozens of sharp and tiny fragments.

Feeling angry at this wonton destruction, but still with my head lowered towards the floor, I now followed the lacey shapely leg upwards with my eyes. Raising my gaze up past the pleated lace pencil skirt, and past the darted lace shirt to reveal the face of the heel’s nasty owner, I realised with a jolt whose destructive shoe it was. The Lacelady.

“Just maybe, when next time we meet, don’t run your luggage case over my foot,” she remarked coldly and with an unsmiling stare.
The Lacelady was glaring down at me with wild green eyes and firmly arched eyebrows, though happily she was not clasping her breasts this time. Fortunately she held her arms casually by her side and left her breasts out of the argument in this public place.

“The phone which you just purposely broke will cost around five hundred dollars to replace,” I said to her.
“It’s a good thing then that your new purchase order for the blue and ivory embroidery just gave you that same amount of commission,” she replied with a continuing stare.
“How do you know about that sales order?” I asked in surprise as I sat further upright to meet her gaze from a less stooped and less submissive position.
She replied to this question initially by smiling and then by firmly grabbing both of her breasts again.
I winced.
“The buyers all tell me little things,” she said whilst giving her breasts a little jiggle, seemingly as a way of high-lighting her message.
Some of the people in the café had noticed her unusual stance and were pointing it out to others around them.  For a lady in a well tailored outfit and whose face carried an intelligent look, her sexually aggressive gestures seemed out of place with her personality. I wondered for a moment if her own lace-sales vehicle may have a Madonna or Michael Jackson CD jammed in it and that perhaps their clutching habits had subconsciously filtered through to her through the music speakers.

“This seems to be a peculiarly odd habit of yours,” I said to her as I pointed to her breast-clutching hands, “all this clutching and jiggling that you do.”
“Don’t you like it?” she queried.
“Maybe it’s a little aggressive,” I suggested, “Especially when you do it in public.”
“You may want to become more comfortable with seeing me do it,” she added, “because I’ll be seeing you around the trade quite often.”

At this time Jordan called out from his café counter again, “long and black, just for The Lacelady.”
“Did you hear that?” she asked, while still looking down at me suggestively.
I shook my head even as I shuddered, then gently wrapped my broken phone in a napkin, put it gently into a coat pocket and headed for the café door exit, shuddering still as I went.

Retreating quickly to the sanctuary of The Lacevan and feeling that I needed some solitude in which to ponder a sudden internal churn, I took a pause in time to sip on the by now cooling coffee and to ponder this tear in the seam of normal life, one which had just been caused by someone who was quite petite, and yet also quite overwhelming and imposing.

Based on initial gut-feelings and on recent comments that she had made also, it seemed The Lacelady had plans to be working in the local lace trade for a while and she seemed also to make her mark on people quite quickly.  Her pert breasts were disturbing me also in so much as she brought them into every conversation with her brash comments and her constant clasping and grasping of them. There was disconnect between the feminine way she looked and the harsher way she behaved and it was this, more than anything else, which was disturbing me. I needed to harden up, I told myself.

I wondered then also, just what it must feel like, to do that breast clasping and grasping while making threatening statements to other people and I pondered it in visual detail for some time. I’d not seen others do it, neither in politics, war or in boxing, even though on recent observations it had seemed particularly effective in its portrayal of menace. Deciding to find out its nature for myself, I gave her unusual habit a quick solo trial of my own. After putting the coffee in the van’s cup holder, I grabbed one side of my chest in each hand and then moved my firmly clasping hands all about at the same time as mouthing the words “you won’t get away with this, you can’t do that to me”.

I tried this breasty action and the accompanying menacing words several times, in order to try to get a personal feel for what it felt like to do it, whilst each time varying both the velocity of hand-movements and also my tone of voice.  When I had finished these immodest trials some minutes later, and now satisfied that I knew the innate power that this action held, I noticed a uniformed man outside of the van was leaving a parking ticket under the windscreen wiper.

“I will get away with this mate, no matter how much you shake your flat chest at me,” he said through the open side window.

That was all he said, and then he was gone, leaving me alone again with my thoughts and a, by now, quickly cooling café latte and a strained itchy chest. My world seemed easily shaken and newly askew as I pulled the van away from the curb and motored north again towards the next sales meeting. The parking ticket held firmly by the wiper blade against the wind-screen flapped ever faster in the breeze as we accelerated up to highway speed and I was happy to be putting increasing distance between myself and The Lacelady whom I had seen turning to head south soon after leaving the café herself.

After running a quivering hand along the dashboard to locate the music system dials, I pressed the play button firmly in order to push the heavy silence out of the van and soon Barry came through the speakers with his usual dolce tones, rhythmic beats and single-track-mind view of the world.

You know I get in these moods...
Well you know how it is,
And I'm very glad to know that you feel the same way too,
Baby we're gonna lay here...And we're gonna make love,
And we're gonna do it like it’s supposed to be done.

This moody intimate song, whilst possessing an enjoyably strong rhythm and melody, was not a good match for the current pensive mood in the van and so I turned down the volume again, thus re-storing the van to a mood of perturbed silence and allowing myself a new clearer head-space to ponder the recent events. Taking a mouth full of cool coffee from the cup in the dual drink holder I was met with an unpleasant taste and looked down at the cup for a reason. Instead of the coffee cup, I had grabbed, by mistake, a different cup altogether from the second holder, one that contained a small amount of red dye from an earlier appointment with a dyehouse. Fortunately it was an eco friendly vegetable dye, so I would not pass out in the van from its consumption. It did however leave me with deeply stained lips, a mouth radiant with an intense red color, and a very bad after-taste also.  This was not the first time this had happened. When I drove to see the buyer the next day to show them, in my mouth, the new red color that we had developed for them at the dyehouse, I hoped they would not ask for a sample cutting of it.

The lace trade for the past many years had been, despite general assumptions, largely the domain of salesmen, not women, and those salesmen working in it had long combated each other with relative and sportsman like ease.  In just a very short time this lace world now seemed greatly and permanently changed, with The Lacelady’s presence having thrown a feminine pall over the entire sales industry. It was not simply just a new feminine and lacey form of pall though. The lacey aspect of the pall had always been evident in the lingerie trade, despite the lack of female salespeople, simply due to the textiles themselves and also due to the lingerie designer’s styling influence. This new change could be more accurately defined as a pall of feminine thought, ideology and action that could seemingly introduce a new way to approach the business of lace sales all together. 

Lace salesmen had always competed in a particularly masculine way, such as by how many kilos of new laces they could carry up stairs to sales meetings to show to prospective clients. We had figured, rightly or wrongly, that the more lace designs one could carry to showrooms to show to designers and buyers, the better the chances of sales success would be. 

Would the Lacelady now change this current sales modus operandi with a greater feminine insight?  I wondered at the possibilities and tossed over possible new sales strategies in my mind. Would the Lacelady, with her more in-tune understanding of the end product, perhaps take with her to her own sales meetings just two or three ideally suited lace designs for a buyer to choose from? Rather than try to carry two or three suit cases full of designs?  Would she offer to her buyers perhaps just a few of the most perfect pre-selected lace designs for the bra designer’s planned new bra style?  And over-whelm her buyers with kilos of unneeded laces?

She also, as a female lace salesperson, had the option of sewing up lingerie garment samples and wearing them to meetings. It was entirely possible, despite being unlikely, that The Lacelady could arrive in reception areas clad only in a bra and brief set, and be able to display her latest laces exactly as they would look when sewn into a bra. This would certainly afford her a competitive advantage, though it may present problems of its own to her in the colder winter months.  It was possible that we men had fallen into a malaise with our work also.  As such unsettling new thoughts passed through my mind, inner tensions grew and I unconsciously squeezed the paper coffee cup too hard, overflowing its brim and spilling the contents down the front of my shirt, so jolting me alert.

Just a few short hours had passed since The Lacelady had been noticed working in the trade but already it seemed time to call out for all those in the lace sales industry to come together for a trade meeting.  We followed a strict code in the trade for any matters that required solidarity in the face of adversity and so a meeting of the lace-guild’s council was needed.

After pulling The Lacevan over to the side of the road to park away from the traffic and to send the message out to the guild’s council members, I lifted the special purpose code red phone from the van’s locked dash-board compartment and anxiously flipped it open. Using the council’s unique code-red phone line, 1300-lace-meet, I carefully drafted a text message to send out to the only contact group that was stored in this phone’s contact list.

 “Esteemed comrades of the guild,” the message began functionally, “an unidentified fabric falcon has woven herself into the tapestry of the textile realm, needling in and hustling the majors with a busty rancour. Requesting a meeting at secluded venue for bipartisan discussion on territories and for evaluation of this new fem-fabric perpetrator.” 

The message was soon ready to be signed off and to be despatched to all corners of the city after re-checking the six contact addresses for accuracy and to ensure full inclusion.

An internal thought process of message legitimacy evaluation was then undertaken as required by the Guild’s charter, strategically done in order to re-confirm to myself, as the invitation’s sender, that there was indeed a real need for this message. There were punishments metered out for any miss-judged actions of undisciplined haste. The text message was approved and then sent off and I leant back in the van’s driver seat to ponder this message’s possible consequences further. Before any new thoughts were realised though, the phone began to vibrate with quick replies.

“Are you talking about the size 10-C lady in the allover lace shirt and push-up bra who doesn’t need a push-up bra?” one respondent asked.
“Is this message about the girl with the Italian jacquardtronic allover laces that she is selling for under Euro 6 per meter?” asked another.
“I MET HER!” was the third of the replies to be quickly received in response to the sent message, “she’s the one with the manicured claws and I’m scared of her, will she be at the meeting?”

These messages, as well as three other replies, were all received within just a few moments of the meeting request text being sent out, appearing as though  everyone was pre-primed for it and sat waiting for the guild’s official meeting message to be sent to them.

It was clearly apparent also, from the haste and tone of these replies, that The Ladylady had already met and made a strong impression on most of the men working in the trade. As such, the meeting was duly confirmed by unanimous reply as needing to proceed that very night, with full council attendance confirmed. It would be held officially, as per Lace Guild council policy, on that same day as it was called and would take place at the recently agreed venue also. This trade meeting would be attended by the heads of lace sales companies and lace departments only. No sales juniors, part time Lacemen, apprentices or volunteer ‘friends of lace’ would be invited to attend, due to the seriousness of the matter and high potential for information leaks.  Also as per guild policy, there would no swing tag or ticketing guns allowed at the meeting and all members would be searched for them at the entrance door. In the past there has been serious misconduct by some guild members who, after several frothy drinks and used their ticketing guns to tag a pair of their opposition to each other by their suit fabrics, using hundreds of smuggled plastic tags to do so and leaving their expensive suits riddled with holes.

Happy now in the knowledge that the others had all readily agreed to the Guild’s meeting, and in doing so had justified its hasty planning, the rest of the day could be passed with the reassuring thought that a Guild council discussion and vote would be held later that night and that, hopefully, a course of remedial action would be agreed to and put in motion. The Lacelady would soon discover, perhaps not too surprisingly, that she would need to do more than merely jiggle her breasts to be successful in this trade.

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Chapter 3. The lace guild.

A single dusty light globe hung precariously above the battered door that we would enter for our Guild meeting that night. Tucked in closely beside it hung several dead beetles, all caught in a web in which they withered and died, a small-scale scene which was strongly reminiscent of my childhood.

A minimalistic and yet highly functional light shade held this globe beneath its rusty cone, giving the appearance of slight industrial decay but also throwing a perfectly circular beam of light towards the ground. Our lace council had gathered in a circle on the edge of this bulb’s stream of light so that every man’s face was both partly lit by the light and also partly shadowed by their own facial features.  Of those in the group who had large brows, their eyes were shielded from the light almost totally, thus making it hard for some others to easily identify them.  All six members of the council were indeed standing there at the door waiting, having all arrived on time, some even arriving rather early, including; Martin Stretch, the specialist in support garments; Boris Rioli the elder statesmen of the trade; Jock Nylon a keen innovator of new yarns; Terence Hook; and Fabio Flounce who had immigrated from Italy to work here some many years ago. The six of us formed almost a complete and well spaced circle of Lacemen but there was one gap in the circle where this Guild-council group opened up, just near to where the door was, and that was what we were all focused on now.  On the door was a security panel, and with it, a key-pad coded security lock.

To gain access to our meeting room for this night we would need to enter the security password code that would unlock the door, and the combination code for this particular series of security lock would need to be both part alphabetic and also part numeric. 

“I haven’t seen her in person,” said Terence, thus becoming the first to speak again since we had finished our greetings, “so I can’t help much.”
“Me neither,” added Fabio, “though I heard she’s below the average.”
“I’ve seen her,” said Boris, “and I’d say she’s a 12DD.”
“But that’s not below the average Boris?” queried Fabio.
“You said haven’t seen her yourself though Fabio”, said Boris, “so how can you be telling us if we are right or not? You’re just going on hearsay.”
“What is hearsay?” asked Fabio. “Do you hear, or do you say? It can’t be both."
“Fabio, you focus too much on the below average sizes always,” I piped in, “that’s why you don’t make as much money as the rest us, and if Boris has seen her himself, and has estimated her size then we should trust him. He’s been doing this the longest time, the measuring of breasts and all.”
“What size did you say again?” I asked Boris.
“12DD. I guessed that her bust size was 12DD,” said Boris.
“Are we talking about the same store manager then,” interjected Martin just as I was about to try the code 12DD on the key pad.
“Well, I assume so. The lady I saw is the lingerie department manager here, in this very store,” said Boris.
“Personally, I would have said she is a 12E myself, but then again I only saw her once, and that was from the side view,” added Martin unhelpfully.
Taking a chance I typed 12DD into the keypad as Boris had suggested and quickly afterwards the key-pad panel flashed red and the door stayed locked.
“Damn, the code isn’t 12DD,” groaned Boris. “But that doesn’t mean she’s not a 12DD, most ladies don’t know their own bra size correctly do they?” added Boris in his own defence and he looked around the group for support.
“Yes, that’s for sure,” four voices all mumbled in supportive unison.
“OK, so we have two more guesses left before the code locks down for the night and we have to find another place for our meeting,” I said.

“Try 12E, like Martin suggested,” said Jock.
“I would”, I replied, “but this key-pad code requires both two numbers and also two letters and 12E only has one letter in it. So even if her size was 12E as Martin suggested, 12E still could not be the correct door code.”
“It’s the same ridiculous bra sizing system making trouble for us again,” said Jock, to which we all nodded our heads in agreement, all acknowledging silently that having a DD in the middle of a chart of  A, B, C, D, DD, E, F, G, and H was utterly nonsensical.
“There must have been one nice big girl in the village back in the day when they invented the sizing system,” muttered Boris in an attempt to explain the irritating DD size.
No-one bothered to ask him what he meant though, as we had all given it much thought in the past and had arrived to our own conclusions.

The evening air was increasingly cooling down as we stood around, becoming assuredly cold and there were rain clouds gathering on the horizon.
“So what should we do now?” I asked these attending Guild council members.
“There is an AA used as a sizing in some bra ranges,” suggest Jock. “You know, for the trainer bras. But then again I’m sure the store manger isn’t AA in her bra size. And..he added, from recent history we know that the lingerie department managers pretty much always use their own bra size as the entry code just so that they will never forget it.”

“Maybe she has a size AA daughter whose bra size she used as the code,” suggested Fabio.
“Or maybe she used, for the code, a bra size that she wants to be, and then it would be an aspirational alarm coding. Or… maybe she is a lesbian and her code is the bra-size of her partner,” Terence suggested hopefully while holding his arms tightly folded across his chest in an attempt to keep warm.
“Maybe we are over-thinking this also,” someone pondered aloud.
We all stood back again from the door, wondering which code to try next to open it.
“Did anyone ever notice how the magic word ‘abracadabra’ has the word ‘bra’ in it twice?  Maybe we should just all say abracadabra together? Maybe that’s the magical way to open a door when a group needs to have a meeting about bras,” someone suggested to a unanimously silent reply. 

Without another word being said, abracadabra or otherwise, Boris suddenly moved towards the door and typed into the keypad a code which was unrelated to any bra sizing, typing ‘MF04’ in a quick burst, and immediately the key pad’s tiny globe flashed green. The door was open.

Quickly grabbing the door’s sturdy handle while access was now available to us, Boris then flung open the door wide and we all quickly and quietly ushered ourselves inside the building.
“What code did you use then Boris?” I asked him as we stood inside the door waiting for the fluoro lights to blink on.

“It’s the garment code of this store’s best selling bra,” he replied, “and it happens to be a bra with my cotton jersey fabric in it. Sorry guys, to have to tell you this, but I am number one here.”
“Pfut,” replied Terence, “sure you might have the number one selling bra here, in this store, but that garment of yours has no lace on it except for a tiny piece on the side, so we’d all, the rest of us that us, we’d all be making make more money here from this department on our lesser selling garment lines than you are on yours.”

Upset by this hurtful comment, Boris lunged at Terence with a previously unseen swing-tag gun and tried to staple his suit sleeve cuffs to the ankles of his trousers.
Terence fought him off but not before Boris has tagged Terence’s sleeves together, thus limiting his movement substantially and leaving him vulnerable to a second attack.
“I could finish you off now, you know that,” said Boris to Terence as he lay on the ground before him, “I could staple you into a ball and roll you down a hill.  I have 400 more tags of ammunition you know.”

“Yes, Boris is right, you need to respect your elders,” I snapped at Terence. “Tonight we are in council so you’ll need to show utmost respect to all members, and not be combative. If it wasn’t for Boris’ help with the code, we’d all still be standing outside in the dark and the cold.”

The fluorescent lights on the high ceiling had by now finally come to life after much flickering and teasing in what, in retrospect, had looked quite like an orchestrated lighting display from a fashion show. With the ceiling lights firmly on, half of this large store-room area was now modestly lit, whilst the remainder of the room was now a semi-lit series of tall column-rows of storage cartons with darkened and shadowy aisles between them.  The clearest area of free floor space that was available for us to set up a round table for our meeting in was close to the center of the room, away from the tallest columns of packing cartons. This area of floor space was also where several half-emptied cartons of garments were strewn about and was also conveniently close to where the unused store mannequins were left standing, awaiting their next turn in the store window.

Having now chosen our meeting space, each of us then wandered up and down the darkened aisles scouring the vast store room for a carton of bra stock that would be both a comfortable height to sit on and that also contained bra stock that was stitched from our own laces.  As each guild member located a suitable carton, we then each carried, pushed or kicked these cartons back towards the central meeting area and gradually formed them into a seating circle.

As we each then carefully manoeuvred our selected cartons into their final seating places, another circle, a second circle, also formed around us and we were then again, the six of us, plus a further six new additions, all facing each other in a circle. In addition to the circle of seating cartons for ourselves, we also had arranged a store mannequin to stand behind each of us, with each of them wearing a bra and brief set made from our own laces.  It was for these particular garments that we had searched through, and taken garments from, the  ‘garment returns’ basket that sat in the middle of our circle.

Rifling through this ‘returns’ basket in order to each find a garment set for our mannequins to wear for the duration of the meeting had taken longer than expected, and it had also reignited some age-old industry debates. This search through old garment styles had given us all a sense of a trip back through different eras in lingerie fashion cycles as, though some of the garments were recent season styles, and were also recent returns to store, some of the well-worn items in the returns basket were several years old and more.   Terence had found a French Knicker brief style in the returns basket which he claimed was more than five years old and sewn into it was a lace of his that now looked a little frayed along its scallop edges.

“Who returns to a store a piece of underwear that’s six years old?” he exclaimed aloud whilst studying the garment in his hand and picking gingerly at the lace’s edges to test its strength and construction. His comment was best handled by all as a rhetorical question, so every one left it alone and just sat back on their carton box seats to wait while Terence, the last of the group to dress his mannequin, gently pulled the old lacey brief, the one sewn with his lace long ago, onto his mannequin.

“I cannot find in this damn basket anywhere, no matter how deep I dig down, any bra to match this French Knicker,” he said as he finished pulling the briefs up on the mannequin and reattached her right leg to her hips again, “so she’ll just have to go topless this time.”

By the time Terence had turned back to face towards the group and had sat down, the frayed elastic on those six year old under-pants had sagged further, had become looser around the waist , and the garment had fallen quietly to the floor, so rendering Terence’s assistant naked in public.  Boris chivalrously gave her his coat jacket to wear, taking care also to do up each of the coat’s buttons for modesty.

Looking around the circle at the mannequins themselves now, I was glad to note that they had been found and stationed at their posts without a hitch. I personally was not too concerned with my choice of mannequin for the night, as they were all equal to the task in my mind, and I already had my favourite mannequin on staff at the office. Fabio also was not overly concerned as he was still new to the trade and simply chose any Italian looking model without too much thought of her history.

“These girls,” he said, “they never could be real Italian you know, they don’t talk and they for sure don’t move their arms when they talk also!”

Jock and Martin were a little more particular with their mannequin choices, particularly Martin who worked mostly with larger sized garments. He liked a larger mannequin also, due to the larger ones being more suitable for displaying all his best selling garments. He had found a size 22 mannequin standing amongst quietly the others, though being short and sleight in stature himself, he had struggled to move her into place behind his seat.  Jock had helped him to manoeuvre her, and for a while there, they looked like they were having quite a good time, the three of them.  The rest of us had watched on curiously as this large naked plastic lady came slowly towards us with a small man attached to either side of her, each with his arms wrapped tightly around her waist and struggling to move her in a straight line. It was a ménage-a-trois waltz, of sorts.

Jock was the last to move his mannequin into place as, after he had helped Martin with his mannequin moving, he looked worried when he realised the garments he had found that were made with his own lace were a bright jade neon color.

“I need a dark skinned mannequin for these bright garments,” she said, and though we assured him that for this meeting it was not imperative for the garments to look perfect, he replied to say that he was indeed a perfectionist and that he would surely take the time to get the right look. Finally he did locate the matching mannequin that he said he needed and we could all be seated.

“You do realise,” said Terence emphatically, “that because I could not find more than a couple of MY garments in the returns basket, that’s because my laces are the best, because they don’t fray, and so they don’t get returned in garments.”
“No it’s not,” chimed in Jock expectantly, “it’s because they don’t sell well in the first place, there simply aren’t many out there to return.”

Without taking his gaze from Jock, Terence then reached back into the returns basket, took an unseen handful of garments from inside it and threw them at Jock along with the comment… “It’s all your rubbish in here then I’ll bet, as most of your laces don’t even have stop-motion yarns. Your laces run quicker than a cheetah.”
“No quality comparison jibes, please,” I interjected, “that is a condition of the Guild’s revised constitution.”
“Revised when?” asked Terence.
“Just now Terence,” I replied, “so we can start the meeting.”

Finally the six of us were all comfortably seated and were ready for this special council meeting of the Lace Guild to begin.

“First shall we have a Guild approved drink?” I asked the group, and all in attendance nodded ‘yes’ in unison.
“Are so are all you happy with the usual?” I asked again, and they nodded once more, some of them eagerly.

From my bulky shoulder bag I took forth a large aluminium thermos flask, it being a Swiss military designed model that had been given as a Christmas gift from a print textile supplier in Basel. I then also took out from the same bag, six steel polished aluminium drinking cups, all specially designed to match the flask.  Opening the thermos lid gently, so as not to spill any of the foamy yellow contents, I generously poured into the cups six large equal measures of this ‘fluffy duck’ cocktail for each of the councillors to enjoy pre-meeting.

At the same time, Boris took from his embroidered over-coat pocket a finely engraved wooden cigar box. Upon wrestling opening the box’s well sealed lid, a quaint Colombian tobacco scent drifted upwards, outwards and across the group, so inviting everyone to partake in a puff. Boris handed his cigar box towards his left side in the circle and as each member of council took a chunky cigar from the box he then also in turn passed it to the man on his left and the cigars quickly made their way around the circle. An engraved flip-top cigar lighter followed the cigar box around the group and soon each member was sitting happily with a large fluffy duck cocktail in one hand and a chubby textile cigar in the other. Just before downing the ducks we raised a cheer to the start of the meeting.

“What’s in these cigars Boris?” asked Martin after he coughed up his first puff.
“Different things; flowers, bark, coffee beans, dried milk, things like that,” he replied matter of factly.
“No tobacco then?” questioned Martin.
“Oh no, that will kill you Martin, these cigars are made of things just taken from my garden. These cigars are not for inhaling, more just for holding between your teeth.”
“You know what they say about Cuban cigars,” sighed Fabio as he drew a deep breath, “they are saying that the Cuban cigars are rolled on the thigh of the virgin under a midnight moon! Exciting to know this, yes?”
There was general consent heard in the murmuring that followed Fabio’s comment, and then Boris said,
“Yes, I heard that also, so I do it the same way also now, I rolled these cigars on my thigh also. Also sometimes at midnight.”
Martin coughed again, more deeply this time.

Now with each of the group resting comfortably on their sagging carton tops we collectively licked eagerly on the fluffy duck foam that remained stuck to the inside of our cups. Slowly then, as the last residues of foam were licked away, we each gathered our thoughts to be ready for when the main discussion point on the agenda began. Next we each placed our cigars, still lit, between the firm and outstretched fingers of each of the mannequins standing behind ourselves.  The mannequins themselves remained motionless as usual, and in their fine poses they did an excellent job of keeping those smoking cigars close at hand for us. From this point of the meeting until its end, it was decreed that only the person whose turn it was to speak to the group would again be holding their cigar.

Just one more Guild ritual needed to be followed in order for us to begin, which was for each of us to adorn our lace gloves, and so each member duly took from their pockets a long lace pair. Those wearing short sleeves simply slid their gloves on and were ready in a moment. For those who came to the meeting wearing long sleeved shirts though, they first had to roll up their shirt sleeves to their highest point so that their lace gloves could be pulled up along their arm to their full length, and without any unsightly creases.

As soon as he began to roll up his shirt sleeves though, Jock became frustrated that his sleeves had not enough room in them, even with all the cuff buttons undone, and so he simply removed his shirt altogether and could then easily pull his black lace gloves on quickly and smoothly. 
“Phew,” he said, on sitting down, “now I can relax.”

Everyone else though, aside from Jock, was suddenly now less relaxed than they had been just moments before, not because of Jock’s shirtless appearance, but because this new semi-nakedness had just revealed a large back tattoo which none of us had known of before.

“What have you got there?” asked Fabio whilst pointing at Jock, “it look like one of my designs!”
Fabio never said much, so when he did speak, we assumed it must be important and we paid close attention to what he was saying.
“You cannot do one of my lace designs on your skin,” he added as he now made his way across the circle to look more closely at Jock’s well patterned back.

“No no!” Jock said whilst standing up and holding out his arms to ward off the approaching Italian, “they are not your lace designs in my tattoo; they are from my own lace collection.”

Fabio either didn’t hear him, or was simply paying no attention to what he was saying, and when he reached Jock he used his formidable size and now apparent wrestling skills to quickly and easily flip Jock onto his stomach atop his carton and hold him there while we all studied his large lacey tattoo in detail.

“Do you mind!” whimpered Jock whose face was being held down into the top of his carton while five men poured their eyes across his back.
“Is OK,” said Fabio after a detailed study of the tattoo design, “I think it was something else, but is just similar, is OK for you to have it now. Anyhow, this design is not so nice as mine.”

Though Fabio was now feeling happy again and strode lightly back to his carton, the rest of us were not yet quite done, each of us still looking further at different elements of the elaborate design taking in different elements of it.
“Why didn’t you do your tattoo in the correct machine pattern repeat?” asked Boris who had taken a trade ruler from his bag and had laid it across Jock’s back.
“I did, Boris, of course I did it correctly,” he replied as he began to sit up and shake us all of his back, “but I put on some weight lately and the design just grew out a bit in proportion.”

“I like it,” said Jock, “and you know who else would like it? ’The Rose’ bra company. This classic design is perfect for them, you should show it to them.”
“Are you being serious!” said Jock, “are you suggesting I lie down on their boardroom table, with my face down, in the nude, just to try for an order, you must be kidding right?.”
“Why in the nude?” asked Fabio quickly, “Why not just shirtless? Is there more pattern below your back? Do I need to check on your bottom also?”
“No no, just forget it, I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” snapped Jock.

“So then,” said Jock further, while leaning forward, wiping a smudge of foam from his chin and trying to change the topic, “do tell us more about this Lacelady of which you texted us all. She’s been seen only once or twice till now and yet you took rather drastic action and called a council meeting. The last time you moved that quickly to call a council meeting,” he added whilst looking around the faces in the group for support, ”was when you had a crush on that Norwegian swimwear model and just wanted to talk about her to someone.”
“There is no crush this time,” I assured them, shaking my head as I spoke.
“It seems like another crush,” added Jock, “Lately you only call meetings to talk about girls.
“I thought we were called here specifically to talk about your crush,” added Boris curiously.
“Really?” I stammered in reply, “You seriously thought I called you here just so I could tell you about a crush I may have, and then you still actually came. That’s so sweet.”
“Sure,” said Martin, “and we did all come as you say, didn’t we, so you should be happy. This is a nice drink by the way, do you have any more?”
Feeling shocked and also unexpectedly exposed by the group’s frankness, I again began questioning myself and also my ability to self analyse my thoughts and actions. I edged back further on the carton to quickly think.

“Anyway,” said Martin, breaking the silence, “crush or no crush, we do have to talk about her, this mysterious Lacelady.  After the Laceman sent us his message earlier I did some calling and emailing around the trade of my own, both locally and overseas and indeed it is true, she is established in the lingerie business and is already known by many in the international trade. It seems she has been working in other countries for several, or even many, years and from what I heard she knows a lot about lace, and even more about embroidery.  We may also have even seen her ourselves at some of the trade shows in recent seasons. She’s apparently very good at negotiations, and, I heard, she was born under a textile machine.”

At these words, a collective gasp resonated through the group. Until now I had been the only person known to have been born under a textile machine, specifically a lace machine, and so to wit all the manner of lace was said to be born unto me.  The entire Guild group was looking at me now to see how I would react to this new knowledge. As their leader, they wanted to see how it would received by me to hear that I was perhaps no longer ‘the one born of lace’, and that perhaps that I was just  ‘one, of two, who were born of lace’.

“Ridiculous,” I replied finally, whilst shaking my head and at the same time hoping my shaking limbs were not evident to the others. “What are the chances of a person, of any person, being born under a textile machine, a lace one or otherwise?”

“What should we do then?” asked Boris in a worried tone, thus asking an early specific question on the agenda’s main topic and so also bringing the discussion back to the matter at hand. “If she is as good at lace-sales as people believe she is, then she’ll probably take away half my business.”
“I say we whack her,” said Martin, “we should take her out before she takes away all our business.”
“Yes, let’s whack her,” added Boris, “I really cannot afford to lose any business at the moment.”
“Don’t be so ridiculous,” I called out. I waved my cigar wildly in front of the groups’ faces to remind them that only the person with a cigar in their hand was allowed to speak.
“We are not ‘whacking’ anyone, have the fluffy ducks gone to your all your heads?!  Just be calm, and follow the protocol also. Speak only when it’s your turn to speak and then only when holding your cigar. This council procedure has a purpose, which is to stop these ridiculous outbursts.”

“He’s right”, added Jock as he looked around at each member of the group for support, “the Laceman is absolutely right, no whacking.”
Taking a deep puff on his cigar while the chance to speak was with, him then added, “Yes, definitely no whacking, we have to make it look like an accident!”
“Will you all stop being so damned ridiculous,” I yelled out. “Just be calm, let’s be normal and start this whole discussion again.”
Grabbing the cigar again quickly from my mannequin’s outstretched hand and clasping it firmly in my teeth to hold the floor now, I spoke to the group anew.

 ”Listen, I’ll ask the same question again, I’ll ask the very same question that Boris asked before, and this time let’s have a serious discussion about it, just one speaker at a time, and following the protocol.”

I then paused my thoughts for a moment, just as I was finishing speaking and looked down at my hand, having sensed a searing heat there.  Ash from my burning cigar had fallen onto my left-hand lace glove whilst I had been gesturing wildly and the ashes had still been alight when they landed. Immediately on contact with the lace glove the ash had burnt a little hole in a patterned area on top of my gloved hand, and had seared a part of my skin too. Everyone leant in close to look also, having seen a little stream of black smoke rising from my hand.

“Wow,” said Jock, “Look at that, your lace gloves are synthetic, why did you choose those synthetic ones?”
Jock had noticed, as had the others, that when the hot ash had touched my glove it didn’t burn the yarns, but melted them, and now I had a little ball of hot black melted polyester burnt into the back of my hand. 
“Why polyester?” he asked again, having no interest in the pain I may be in.
“It’s better for gloves, as it leaves no finger-prints or body-oil behind,” I replied.
“I’m not sure about that logic,” said Jock, the trade’s expert on yarns, “but leaving no finger prints behind at our Guild meeting places is indeed a good idea,” he added.
“Isn’t that the only reason why we all wear those gloves?” asked Fabio, the newest member of our group.
“No,” we all replied, “we just all like to wear them, and so it’s a required part of the Lace Guild’s constitution now.”
Fabio held out his hands in front of his face to look as his gloved self again, turning his hands this way and that, and then also flexing his huge arms to see his muscles bulge inside their lace wrapping.
“OK,” he said. “I agree, it’s a good look.”

“Anyway,” I continued, whilst still in pain, and also picking up the discussion from before the burn… and still with the cigar between my teeth, “we’ll follow all the set protocols which means that we need to have a quick vote to be sure that we’re following correct procedure. So, hands up if you agree that we need to do something about the Lacelady,” I asked.

“Thanks, I count 5 hands in the positive.  And next, hands up if you vote that we do not need to do something about the Lacelady at this stage. Thanks again, I count 3 hands. So the motion is carried 5 to 3, which means we do need to something.”
“There are only 6 of us,” said Jock.
“So?” I queried.
“Well,” he added, “If there are just 6 of us, then how could the voting result be 5 and 3, as that’s 8 in total.”
“Did anyone put both of their hands up, or put their hands up twice?” I asked, though it seemed impossible for any of them to have done so as everyone was still holding a cup in one hand and no cups had been held up during the vote. Silence surrounded the group now as some members slowly finished re-checking the mathematical equations of the voting in their heads and as others were pondering why some of our group voted against taking any action.
“Ok, alright, I confess,” said Fabio after a time, “I held up both of my mannequin’s arms for the positive voting, just because I wanted to be really sure we did something about the Lacelady, OK.”
The notion was carried.

Taking Fabio’s comments further I added another comment that “the Lacelady appears to be, potentially, a big threat to us, to our businesses, and perhaps to this country’s lace industry as a whole. Most of us seem agreed on this. She seems well connected on the supply side of the trade, has a personal manner well suited to sales success, and has both feminine knowledge and youth on her side also. She is a genuine sales competitor to us. So I ask you, what should we do about it, about her?”
“I think you should ask her out on a date if you like her so much,” said Jock without hesitation.
“Jock,” I replied irritably, “what on earth are you suggesting now, you’re not to be farcical, we have agreed we need to be serious here.”
“I’m only saying,” he replied with a shrug of his shoulders, “that if you like her so much, love her even, then you could invite her out on a date.”
“Oh for god’s sake, this is absurd Jock, can’t you be serious. Let’s just forget this meeting and I’ll handle her myself.”
“How?” laughed Jock, “just how will you handle her, by batting your eyelids at her?”

I threw my cigar to the floor and lunged at him as he said this and tried desperately to grab his neck with both of my outstretched hands. The cocktails that were frothing and bubbling inside my veins were slowing me down though and were also hindering my usually excellent lunging skills. I managed not to grab Jock as intended, but only to lunge towards him and then fall to his left where I found my hands grasping the firm neck of his mannequin instead. The burning cigar in her grasp then pressed against my thigh and burnt a hole through my trouser pants, quickly scorching a small round mark into tender skin before I managed to brush the cigar aside and stub it out on the floor.

After rolling off Jock’s mannequin, we, the mannequin and I, then both lay spread eagled and side by side on the floor of the storeroom. I looked upwards towards the others and was dazzled by the bright lights and broad smiles beaming down on me from above. Jock in particular was staring down at me happily from very close range.

“Look at you,” he laughed, “lying there with a half naked lady, what would your lovely Lacelady say if she saw you acting like that with another woman?”
He was still laughing as he left the building with most of the others.

Terence stayed behind after the meeting was closed, just in order to help me clean up after the verbal dramas and the subsequent wrestling, with neither of them taking up as much time as the cleaning did. The storeroom needed to be made good after our meeting so as to erase any evidence of us having been there. Terence worked hard to remove any noticeable fingerprints from the mannequins and he helped push all the garment cartons back to the various places from whence they had come. The other council members had left soon after my tussle with the mannequin had ended and finally I could now have a serious talk with Terence about The Lacelady issue without Jock being involved and without Boris being worried about it.

“There is something different about her,” I said to Terence. “We’ve seen so many hopefuls come and go in this trade but they all soon leave it again, for a variety of consistent reasons. Either, lace is too intense for them, the sales range bags are too heavy, they don’t like to conduct sales meetings while models walk around in underwear, or, for some, they just don’t like delicate textile knitting. This one, this Lacelady seems different though. She seems born to it, just like I sometimes feel how I was born to lace. All that they say about her may very well be true. Things may truly be just as they say in the rumours.”

“Maybe she and I are of the same cloth,” I continued, “both perhaps having been born under a textile machine. Maybe she was baptised by one too, by a little drop of boiling textile machine oil which once fell onto her forehead and left a little oil-drop shaped scar.  I cannot see any weakness in her lacey business ways. Maybe she will be the ruin of us all...”

“It’s not a good habit to listen to everything you hear on the rumour mill you know,” said Terence in reply. “So much of what is said in life is untrue. And there is another thing Laceman,” he added. “It may also be time for you make some changes also.  You have always had an irreverent manner about the whole lace business, which is fine, but maybe you need to take a new approach also, perhaps find out why you are here working in this smallish local trade and what your earlier connections to it may really be, if indeed there are any.”

“Do you mean find out about how I was perhaps born under a lace machine?” I asked, “and maybe find out if she was born under one also, things like that?”
“Yes,” he replied, “things like that, but also so much more.  You owe it to yourself, as an orphan, to find out more. Did you look in the mirror lately? Did you not see your large blue eyes, olive skin, soft body hair and broad nose?  You’re not from around here you know. Looking like that, you must be from Europe. We just all think you would be, and that you should be, more curious. Better to find out for yourself, then to rely on rumours for news.”

“They still go around do they, the old rumours about me?” I asked.
“Well yes, sometimes,” Terence said, “well, there are rumours about everyone you know, about her too.”
“What about her?” I asked, feeling very curious to know, “just about the lace machine oil?”
“A bit about that,” said Jock, “the other stuff about her also.”
“Such as, what type of stuff?” I queried.
“The other stuff, you know, how she is different and all.”
“She is different how?” I asked.
“Her nipples.”
“Her nipples?”
“Yes, her nipples,” confirmed Terence.
“What about her nipples?” I asked with a growing sense of frustration.
“You know what I mean, her nipples...”
“No Terence, actually, I don’t know all about her nipples, I just met her this week. She and I have not yet had the chance to discuss her nipples in detail. And I haven’t told her all about my nipples either, in case you were wondering.”
“Ok, you snap-dragon,” he snapped back, “just to fill you in on the nipple news, well, it is said, by the rumour mill, on the grape vine, and in the Chinese whisperers, that the Ladylady has no breasts, she only has nipples.”
“What? No! That’s impossible,” I snorted in reply. “I have seen her, she definitely has breasts.”
“No she doesn’t, apparently,” said Jock, “that’s the thing, she only looks like she has breasts, but she doesn’t. What she has is just nipples, she has a flat chest with really really big nipples. Her nipples are the size of breasts, they fill a size C bra cup, but they are just nipples. She’s a miracle of nature. “

For a few moments after this comment, Terence and I stood silent and still, half facing each other, and with both our heads bowed as this information was passed on and absorbed. I had one eye on Terence, and the other fixed on one of the mannequins whom we had just stood up and dusted off. Looking at her breasts I wondered how it would be, if they were just nipples. As I began to get an image of this in my mind I heard a faint chuckle coming from deep down inside Terence’s belly, and then, not being able to hold the joke to himself any more he burst into laughter before walking off in a fit.
“I sure had you going there,” he called back over his shoulder.

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Chapter 2. On the road.

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Chapter 5. Vintage lace.

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Chapter 4. All nude is good nude.

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Chapter 6. Mixed messages.

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Chapter 7. Searching.

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Chapter 8. The road is long.

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Chapter 9. When in Rome.

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Chapter 10. Catwalk.

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Chapter 11. Time to move.

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Chapter 12. Vintage lace.

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Chapter 13. The peel.

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