Chapter 3A Chapter by Morgane Soustre
Lila's story, a new chapter
The next two days at work went by in a blur. Everybody was frantic about finishing up everything on time for the launching. I had lunch with Betty on Thursday as we had planed. None of us spoke about the day before, avoiding hard subjects, only talking about our jobs. She was really busy preparing an exhibit for a young promising sculptor and painter from Brooklyn. I told her everything about Friday’s event.
«It sounds great», she told me with excitement. «You’re going right ?»
«I’d rather not but I’m expected to.» I confessed. «And it’s for work not for pleasure so.»
«Who says you can’t mix both.» She said pleased with herself but stopped before going to far when she saw the displeased look I was giving her. «Anyway, what are you gonna wear ?»
« I don’t know yet. It’s a black and white party. I’ll find something in my closet.»
«We should go shopping. I’ll help you find something.»
«No, I don’t need to. I told you, I’ll find something.» She let it go and told me about the renovation she was doing in her place. As she had asked, her dad had bought her a 1500 square feet apartment in the Meet Packing district that she was turning into a stunning loft. It had high ceiling, red brick walls and wooden exposed beams. It was warm and welcoming, at Betty’s image. She told me she had just bought a large taupe couch at Crate and Barrel where she planed on throwing lots of colourful pillows on.
We had a great time together, laughing and chatting. I always felt better, less scared, worried and in pain after being with her for a while.
When I got home that day, I had two packages waiting for me on my door step. They were beautifully wrapped in white paper, big black bows on top.
«She didn’t», I thought immediately. I took the packages inside and opened them. Inside the first one, was a beautiful white satin cocktail dress, body hugging and knee length. In the second one, was a black open-back flirty dress with thin braided straps. It was shorter than the first one and a lot sexier too. They were both my size. Looking back in the box, I saw a note.
«Oh, Betty», I sighted. «Always there.» I neatly put the dresses back in their packages and set the boxes on my dresser.
On Friday morning, the office was literally at war. Messengers were coming in and out every five minutes, the phones were ringing continually. I had to call all the press associates, to have the final list of people coming. It was madness but I loved it. I could feel the frenzy surrounding me, the excitement and anticipation. It allowed me not to think about anything else. By noon, Helen announced me that I could go home and get ready.
«You need to be at the place by 3:30 p.m. Here is your badge.» She handed me a small rectangular cardboard with my picture on, hanging on a string. «Show it to security downstairs, they will let you up.»
I took a cab home. I didn’t want to waist any time walking. When I got to my place, I made myself a light salad with lettuce, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese that I ate, sitting on one of the bar stool preparing myself for what was coming. I hated parties, seeing all those people, having to interact. It was overwhelming and stressful. I used to be pretty good at it but not anymore. It was an other remember of a past I wish had never happened. I put my dishes in the sink and headed to the shower. I watched my hair, shaved my legs and armpits and let the hot water running on my naked skin, calming me down. I dry myself up with a warm towel that I had left on the heater. I blow dried my hair and straighten it up right after. It was now smoothly floating down my nude back. I applied some make up on my face, some mascara, blush and light pink lipstick. I covered the bruises on my arm. It took me a while but when I was done you couldn’t see anything. I looked nice, professional. I decided on wearing the white dress Betty’d bought me, the other one being to daring. I paired it with black pee-toe pumps, chandelier gold earrings and the bracelet Betty had given me for my birthday that I never took off. I was ready to go, camouflaged for the outside world.
By 3:20 p.m, I was at the bottom of the Empire State Building. I moved passed the group of tourists waiting for the elevators toward security. I could feel men staring at me while I walking in direction of the desk. It made me shiver. I pull on the bottom of my dress, self-conscious and uneasy.
«Hi, there Miss,» a black security man gently said to me, «You’re with the party on the 100th floor ?»
«Yes, I am». I took my badge out of my black leather clutch and passed it to him.
« Good. Just go for elevator 2. It’s direct to the party.»
At the elevator, I was greeted by a told brunette wearing a tight black bustier dress. She called for the ride. The doors opened and I went in. As soon as the door opened, I felt my chest tightening. I hated those elevator. My eyes where locked on the numbers. It wasn’t going fast enough - 40, 41, 42, 43, 44 ... «Come on, come on. Faster, just go faster.» 78, 79, 80... Only twenty more levels. My hands were gripped on my clutch. Finally, with a small ding, the door opened. I let go a relief sight. An other hostess wearing a black bustier dress was waiting by the ball room entrance. Once inside the room, I looked for Helen. I spied her talking with Richy near the DJ’s booth. She was wearing a nice black lace bustier dress with a black satin ribbon at the waist. Her red hair wad pulled up in a sophisticated bun over her head.
«Hi, you’re here. You look really nice.» She affirmed.
«You too, Helen.»
« I was telling Richy, he did a great job. Everything is in place. The cater is finishing setting up everything, the waitresses know what to do with the product, the DJ will start playing in about 30 minutes. The clients will be there in 45, the press will start showing up in an hour. We pulled it off», she sighted happy.
«For this evening, you will just have to check at the entrance with the guests list, make sure that no one that’s not on the list gets in. There is always a few party crashers. When it’s all good, you can just have a good time and enjoy your work.»
We talked a little more about small details. When the clients arrived, Helen and I showed them around and we toasted to the future success of the evening with their new product. As surprising as it was, «God’s piss» was actually a really good beverage - exotic fruit lemonade with a slight vanilla taste. By 4:30, I was standing at the ball room entrance near the hostess ready, when the first guests arrived.
«Miss Martin, you look». Mr Holt was in front of me, clearly checking me out, even though he was accompanied by a top model looking woman perched on five inches sparkly gold heels, «heavenly».
«Thank you. Can I see your invitation ?» I said quite harshly not wanting to play his games.
«Sure.» He handed me the card. I pretended to look it up and crossed out his name and his friend’s of the list. «I’ll see you around». He told me seductively. He knew he was causing me discomfort and he enjoyed it a lot. This man was annoying. I just wanted him to leave me alone.
«I don’t think so.» I declared sharply. He looked surprised for a second then, without a word, passed me to enter the ball room, an amused smile on his face.
By 6:30 p.m, the last guests had arrived and my job was over. I was in an horrible mood. I had to take the elevator twice to go downstair where people were trying to pass security to come to the party. Back in the ball room, surrounded by so many people I felt anxious and frankly light headed. I needed some water and headed for the bar. A pop song was playing in the background, people were chatting, mingling, having fun but it was just a lot for me. I stood there with my glass of iced cold water, people coming to congratulate me but always moving on when they realized I wasn’t making any effort to chat. I was tensed and on my guard.
«There you are !» Helen exclaimed, when she finally found me. «I’ve been looking for you everywhere. The party is a total hit !» She was excited and trilled.
«I can see that. It’s great.»
«We are going to celebrate when it’s over - Richy, Dale his assistant, you and I. We‘re going to eat somewhere fancy and drink to our first success with the New York office.»
«I don’t know.» I could feel a rush of nervous tension coming up. «I...»
«No, no, no. You never come when we do something out of the office. You don’t have a choice. Right now, you’re coming.» She was dead serious, I couldn’t say no.
It was 9:00 p.m and we had just left the party. I had spent the rest of reception with a fake but realistic smile plastered on my face, pretending to enjoy myself when I only wanted to go home. I was apprehensive about diner but I didn’t want anybody to know. I had my secrets and they weren’t to share.
Richy had been able to get us a table at the really elitist «Both Hand» restaurant,a new place that had opened just a couple of months ago, because he had planed the opening. The food was supposed to be innovating and «to die for» as the critics of The New York Time had put it. The spot was in Soho, in a small street with big maple trees on each side. It was already nice from the outside, bucolic, large wooden framed windows, crimson awnings and flower pots on each side of the entrance. But once inside, it was even better. Black and white chess tiles, a long dark antique wooden bar on the left side of the room, white tablecloths, gorgeous flower centre piece and lit candles on each table, massive lampshades hanging from the ceiling, a modern metal mezzanine being used as a second floor. It was the perfect mixed of rustic and contemporary.
Richy gave our party’s name and a tall cute waiter led us to our table. It was in the middle of the room. I sat my back to the back of the room opposite to Helen. While waiting for our waiter to come back, I took a look around me. Every single person in the restaurant was on its best behavior, dressed up in suits and elegant dresses. «At least, I fit in with the crowd.» I thought.
Our server came back with the menus.
«Hi, my name is Jeff. I will be your waiter for tonight, so if you have any question, please, do ask.» He said with a genuine smile on his face, placing the menus on our hands. «Would you like something to drink first ?».
Helen ordered champagne for the table.
«I’ll have a ginger ale, please.» I told him overtly, avoiding Helen’s gaze.
«Come on, Lila ! We’re celebrating.» The server looked confused for a moment, not knowing who to listen to.
«I’m good with my Ginger Ale.»
«Whatever, at least you’re here.» Yes, at least I was there. She had no idea how hard is was for me, to be partying, celebrating. I didn’t like to break the order I had established in my life after the accident. Control was my safe place. I needed it to keep on going.
«Okay, so champagne and a ginger ale, coming right away.»
A few minutes after, Jeff came back with our drinks that he places in front of us. «Would you like to know about the specialities ?»
«Sure», Richy said.
«We have salmon en croute with roasted almond and pistachios on its bed of greens, grilled ham with mustard sauce and its trio of potatoes and least but not last, barbecue pork ribs with lentils du Puy and its layer of snapped peas.»
«It sounds pretty good. Ladies first.» Richy said with gallantry.
«I’ll have the salmon,» Helen said.
«Make that two,» I continued.
Dale ordered the ham and Richy the pork ribs. Our waiter left.
«Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glass», Helen demanded. «To our first success in New York and to a lot more to come. Congratulation to Lila for her great first deal.»
«To Helen too,» I added hastily, not wanting the attention on me for too long.
We cheered. The food arrived quite fast after we ordered. Conversations resumed cheerfully with animation, mostly going back to the event, what people said and thought, how the clients reacted. I didn’t say a lot, nodded, smiling and occasionally adding a word. My hands were clung to my drink. I was on the edge, anxiety coursing through my tensed body. I closed myself in my bubble, only waiting for it to end. I nibbled on my salmon. Even though, it was great I couldn’t eat it. My stomach was in a nod.
Then, everybody went silent. Helen’s eyes were locked on someone, her mouth half open. Richy was stunned and Dale looked like he was about to pass out. I knew he was here before even seeing him, my body reacting to his presence. He moved by my side, facing me.
«Hi, I have something that belongs to you I think, Lila.» He said without any elaboration, handing me my lost Ipod. He pronounced my name the way my mom used to say it, with a velvety French accent. He knew. He had listened to my parents voice-mails.
I starred at in in disbelief. He was dressed in a sleek black two button Hugo Boss suit that fitted him like a glove, hugging his defined muscles at all the right places, only the top button fastened, a black shiny belt, a perfectly cut white shirt tucked in and a slim black tie around his neck. He had shaved and his hair was pull back in a glossy manner, only a loose lock escaping. He looked out of this world. I couldn’t resist to study his face. His full lips were pressed together in a straight line, not giving up anything. He had a broad chin and high cheekbones. But what was most impelling, were those deep green eyes locked on mine, piercing deep in my soul, analysing me. Something clinched deep inside me. Most shockingly, I felt aroused. Possibilities were coming, emerging in my mind - his lips on mine, his hands caressing my breasts, the weight of his body pressed on me. I never felt this way before, so turned on by someone I didn’t know, wanting him. But at the same time, he knew too much. He could crush me only by snapping his fingers. He exhaled danger.
My fingers involuntarily brushing his, I took my Ipod from his hand. Electrical current rushed through my body, giving me goose bumps. He never stopped gazing at me, but didn’t say anything.
«Uh-huh.» He finally gave me a captivating slight smile. « Have a good meal».
He turned around and went back to his table, like he had came.
Our table kept silent for a while. The whole situation seemed out of a dream, only the weight of my ipod in my hand made me realize that it had happened. I turned around to see him. He wasn’t looking at me, not noticing me, he was in deep conversation with a group of men, all wearing suits but not equalling him in elegance and charisma. Helen was the first to beak the silence, making me sit back in a normal position.
«How do you know Isaac Blade ?» She asked amazed and curious. «He is gorgeous.» It was more a comment to herself than anything else.
«You don’t.» She didn’t believe me at all. «He called you by name and he had your Ipod !»
«I don’t know him, Helen.» I said abruptly, getting annoyed by the tone of her voice.
«You don’t know that he is one of the most wanted bachelor of New York and he is crazy rich. We are talking about like ten numbers on his bank account. He is one of the most influent person in New York. And he comes to you, calls you by name, looks at you with burning eyes, like he wants to pin you to a wall and f**k you standing up.»
«No, I didn’t know that. And frankly, I don’t care.» I wanted this conversation to be over with, now. What was the problem with Helen, anyway.
She looked quizzically at me for a moment. «Okay, then. If you say so.» And turning to Richy and Dale, «Should we order desert now ?», totally ignoring me.
The mood of the diner had changed. My presence wasn’t wanted anymore. They were all bothered around me, not knowing what to say. When their desert arrived, I excused myself, telling them I was really tired after such a crazy day. I congratulated Helen once more for the event, told them good night and left. Marching through the restaurant, I looked over at his table. It was empty. One good thing. I didn’t have to endure this gaze, not an other time.
Outside of the restaurant, I walked to a main street to hail a cab. The air had cooled down but it was still warm. Cars were passing by, driven by New York city’s frenzy. Lifting my hand to a passing taxi, I saw him. He was standing a few yards away from me, alone, gazing at me again, blank face but blazing eyes. Time stopped for an instant. It was only me and him. As I got in the car, I kept my eyes locked on his, needing this moment to continue. When we started moving, I turned around to see him fade out in the city lights.
© 2012 Morgane Soustre
Added on September 10, 2012
Last Updated on September 10, 2012
Break the mask
AboutI'm French but decided to write in english because I love the langage. I always felt I wasn't born in the right country :) I hope you will enjoy what you read. All coments are more than welcome. more..