Part One: Just a Walk in the Park
Part Two: Another Kind of Dance
Part Three: Life and Love Decisions
Chapter 6:First Commitment.
Part Four: First Times
Part Five: Learning and Loving: Monique
Part Six: Learning and Loving: Nathan
Part Seven: Growth and Endurance
Part Eight: More than a Session
Chapter 19: Another Kind of Scene; Another Kind of Loving
Part Nine: The Bostonian Scenario
Part Ten: Failure of a Scene
Part Eleven: Rebirth
Part Twelve: The San Francisco Scene.
Part Thirteen: Debits Paid and Accounts Received
Part Fourteen: My Teacher's Teacher
Part Fifteen: Turnabout and Deeper Learning
Part Sixteen: Deeper Play
Part Seventeen: Demonstrations and Confrontations
Part Eighteen: Laying it on the Line, Laying on the Block
Part Nineteen: An Ending
When does love cross over the fine line to hate, or to obsession? When does a lifestyle cease to be living and become an existence, or an endurance? At what point does compromise and negotiation degrade to coercion and capitulation? What happens when two people stumble onto the other half to their soul, only to find themselves at odds with each other's physical and emotional needs?
I don't know the answer to those questions. More to the point, perhaps, is the question of what happens to absolute power when the power is not quite absolute? Can it still corrupt, even where there is love? Can it corrupt love?
What happens when two people meet, fall in love without knowing all the other needs of them? What if one of them needs, requires, the submission of the other, and what if that other person, in trying to satisfy the need for submission, fears losing, or even does lose some essential part of himself?
Is that love or is that obsession? I have no answers, only a story of S and M between SoulMates.
To the best of my ability, I am attempting to tell this story without resorting to histrionics or excessive emotion. It is my story, and part of the reason for telling it is to deal with the emotion constructively. If that makes my tale seem bloodless or passionless, let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.
During the span of time recounted here, the basic assumptions and values of my adult life were brought into question. My most private self image was pulled into the light and held up to scrutiny, not just by me, but by someone who I wanted and more than that, who I wanted to love. Such revelations and insights can be very disturbing, becoming deeply emotional ordeals when one seeks them intentionally. They can be devastating when they are unexpected and unplanned.
Truthfully, I consider myself to be a pretty ordinary person, and prior to this, I never thought that people really had experiences such as these. Certainly, ordinary people like me did not. None the less, have them I did, and this is that story.
I put my pen down and gave up with a sigh. Outside my window, soft, feathery clouds were flitting across the cool spring sky. They were far more interesting than the new project's cost projections I had been trying to analyze without much success. Just then, clouds beat accounts receivable hands down.
I found myself daydreaming far too often of late, but it seemed preferable to doing useless, mindless make-work. Unfortunately, whether I thoroughly reviewed the document in front of me or not mattered very little. My boss would review the same figures and estimates himself, would ignore my comments and recommendations, and make his own decision on how to present the project to the higher-ups. He would recommend the project glowingly if the concept interested him, personally, or find 'reasons' to kill it if it did not pique his interest.
I was doing exactly the kind of useless, micro-managing, detail intensive and ultimately purposeless work that I had promised myself I would never do again.
My watch beeped, signaling lunch time. My supervisor hated that alarm, mostly because he liked to take up lunch time with what he politely called, brown bag meetings ("Since you were going to eat lunch at your desk anyway, Nate, why don't you come in and talk to me about this new job"). The alarm placed him in the position of requesting that I stay for a meeting, which of course meant that I was on his time, not mine. He also knew, from past experience with me, that those "friendly little lunches" would be reflected on my time card and on his budget. He no longer tried that trick, but I still kept the alarm active. That demanding little beep served to remind me that I needed to get out of there.
I exited the crowded elevator and was carried along by the swarming flood of humanity emptying out into the soft, near warmth of an early March afternoon. Crystal City, located in Arlington, Virginia, is a stereotypical concrete jungle of too much pavement and too many sunshine-blocking buildings. I badly needed some space. I fought my way out of the herd of fellow escapees and headed for the bridge that led over the George Washington Parkway to the Washington National Airport. Lunch hour traffic clogged the inadequate roads about Crystal City, and made my trek a bit of an adventure, but I managed to get across the bridge intact. Once I got off the bridge, I turned down a path that was half trail/half washout toward the bike path that paralleled the entire length of GW Parkway.
The bike trail was crowded, too, with all manner of exercise enthusiasts. Those folks were too deeply into their aerobic zones to notice someone walking in the new growth grass along the black paved trail bed. A sigh of resignation escaped me as I watched those young, healthy folk, out running, biking, skating, power-walking. Another casualty of this job had been my exercise program.
I had been in pretty good shape for a forty year old when I had retired from the Navy six months ago. I was still not overweight, only 5 pounds heavier than the 160 lbs I had weighed at my retirement physical. However, the muscle tone was beginning to droop, the energy level was slipping and I could feel the stress building up. I had always detested the running I had done religiously, but now, I missed the benefits of it.
I followed the trail, lost in thought, without really noticing much of my surroundings. The tunnel that lead back to Crystal City, under the AMTRAK railroad tracks, seemed to appear in front of me as I wandered along. I went through the tunnel and back to the main road that skirted the perimeter of the business area. Heading back in the general direction of work, I went down the street to the Water Park, and found a bench to sit down on. The Water Park, so named because of the display fountains and waterfalls that form the center of the park, is a major lunch gathering spot for the local federal office workers during the warmer months. Thankfully, given my desire for solitude, the day was just cool enough for there to still be a private spot among the freshly planted flower beds.
Some changes would have to be made in my life. Work was not satisfying, and yet it was consuming all my time. Consumption of time was not necessarily a bad thing. I have always enjoyed real work. I enjoy the challenge of solving problems and of finding new, better ways to do things. My dilemma was that I was not sure that my work meant anything. Nothing of much value had resulted from anything I had done since retiring from the Navy. The sad truth was that this company had employed me because I still knew some key people in various Navy offices who might know someone else who might throw some work the company's way. Who I knew, or rather, who knew me, was infinitely more important than I, personally, was and certainly more important than what I was capable of doing.
And worst of all, I was alone, and I was lonely. The latter was a first for me. I have often been alone often in the past, usually by choice, but I had never felt lonely before. I was terribly lonely and I was not doing much about that state of affairs.
My marriage, like those of many people serving in the armed services, had died of simple neglect. The Navy is and was a jealous mistress, and had left too little for my wife, Debbie; too little of time and too little of me. The end came when we were expecting our first child. I had been at sea, on deployment, when during the fifth month of her pregnancy, she had miscarried.
The Navy, in its infinite wisdom, had decided that since the D&C had already been conducted, without complications, and since it was so hard to replace the Executive Officer of a deployed submarine, that I would not be sent home. A month later, when we finally returned to port, a process server met me at the brow, divorce papers at the ready.
I resigned as Executive Officer in an attempt to get some shore time and to effect a reconciliation, but that failed. Debbie simply could not trust me or the Navy anymore. So, in the end, I lost my wife and my career. The Navy does not give command at sea to officers who resign from their billets. I had already been selected for promotion to Commander, but any chance at Captain or at my own ship had been lost forever. I was transferred to Washington DC to drive a desk for the rest of my career, and subsequently retired as soon as I reached twenty years of service.
Debbie remarried again within the year, to a guy who runs a fitness club in Norfolk, where we used to live. She has had three kids in the last five years and is as happy as I wish I could have made her. She still remembers me on my birthday and on Christmas (I hate those cards.).
Maybe that is the problem, I thought. Her card had arrived last night, reminding me of another birthday approaching. I was feeling sorry for myself. No wife, no kids, no one to spend a life with. I had a job that did not provide me any fulfillment, and that left me devoid of satisfaction or accomplishment. I was forty years old, well, almost forty one, and I was doing nothing to make the next thirty years better than the last five years had been.
My melancholy was broken by another beep of my watch. Long habit made me start to rise when a flash of color caught at the corner of my eye. I sat back down, staring.
She was the most striking woman I had ever seen. She was fairly tall, maybe three or four inches shorter than my own six feet. Her hair was a deep, dark auburn; her eyes were hidden by oversized, dark sunglasses. She was slender, but not thin. She was dressed in black slacks and a white blouse, with a vividly red patterned scarf over her shoulder. She was striding purposefully towards the park exit when she abruptly stopped. She put down her leather shoulder bag and then gracefully bent over to gently touch the petal of one of the flowers near the brick walk. I watched in fascination as a red tipped finger caressed the velvety texture of the pansy, her mouth smiling in sensuous appreciation.
At that moment, my heartfelt wish was that I could meet someone like her, and share the simple joys of a flower. She left with the same forceful step she had been using when the flower had caught her attention. A lifetime ago, I would not have missed the opportunity to meet such a woman. A lifetime ago, I would not have sat there bemused, watching her leave without at least attempting to introduce myself and to learn her name. A lifetime ago, however, I was not merely living, I was alive.
I stood and started the short walk back to my office, and back to my cubicle. Yes, some things had to change. Thirty years like the last five, or worse, like the last six months, was unthinkable.
At the last minute before entering the elevator, I pulled a Washington Post out of the vendor box, and headed back to work, a spring in my step that had not been there earlier.
I got back to my desk late, and I left work early that evening. Of course, I relished the look of disfavor on my supervisor's face. He wasn't paying for it. I carefully documented, down to the minute, my time on the job. He could not claim I was falsifying pay records, and I looked forward to the confrontation that would come.
That night, I scanned the classified ads, and put together a résumé that was very different from the one that had landed my current position. I worked late into the night, but morning saw a neat stack of envelopes ready to mail to prospective employers sitting atop my desk. These went into the mail on my way to work that very day.
I went to the Skyline Health Club for the first time in months that day. Fortunately, the young man supervising the workout room saw me coming and politely guided me into a workout more suited to my current physical condition. In any case, I was still tired when I got back to the office, and I knew I would be stiff the next day. I was, but I went to the gym again that day, and the next, and the next; until it became a habit again.
Remarkably, the work got done, even though my overtime plummeted, and even though I took the long lunch hour that my contract specifically permitted for working out time. Whether that was because I refused to dither over "make work", or because I simply became more efficient, I don't know. One thing I did do, much to my supervisor's consternation, was to stop hitting on friends from the old days. I refused to call them anymore just to remind them that I was working for this wonderful company. Ultimately, that decision led to what was the final confrontation.
About two weeks after my walk to the Water Park, my supervisor called me into his "office" (a larger cubicle, nearer the office manager's still larger cubicle). After I sat down, he assumed what he thought must be a very strict look. Actually, he looked rather like a chimpanzee with heartburn. "Nate, I think we need to talk. Your contact reports are sadly overdue. How can I keep track of who you are marketing our services to if you don't keep the reports up to date. I want you to have them on my desk before you leave today." He smiled at me benignly. "I don't think we will need to discuss this any further, will we." It was a statement and not a question.
I smiled back at him, and his smile became wary. This career civilian contractor did not like nor trust former military, and my response to his "friendly warning" was not at all what he expected. "No, we won't. Because I am not making any more reports, or contacts for that matter. You have no reports because I haven't made any for the past two weeks outside of documented contract support services. I think you can take this as my two week notice, because I have had it with prostituting myself to my former colleagues to sell them services that are overpriced and that they don't really need." I stood up. "I think that is all that needs to be said, don't you?" He continued to stare at me, dumbfounded. "I thought so." I walked back to my desk, stopping by the photocopier to get an empty paper carton.
I was packing my belongings into the box with my twaddle dumb supervisor returned with my twaddle dumber office manager. He cleared his throat. I merely glanced up at him and continued to pack. "Mr. Jacobs tells me, Mr. Evans, that you have given notice, and that you will not be making any contact calls. Is that correct?"
"Yes, that is correct." I continued packing.
"Do you not consider that a failure to meet your responsibilities to this company?" He was sounding more pompous by the moment. I pulled out the contract that I had signed when I joined the firm. It was not for the position I currently held.
"No, I do not. This contract states that I am a program analyst, a project planner, not a marketer. You asked me to make some calls early on here, but that is not part of my job description. Of course, I know now, that you hired me, never intending me to do the job that I signed on for. That was too much of a plum job, far better for it to go to some enterprising young, non-military, company man. You never changed my job description. For the next two weeks, I will do what I was hired to do - no more, no less."
"I will take you to administrative action." he blustered. Like all petty dictators, this man was used to people cowering at that threat.
"Go ahead. You have no basis. The contact reports I supposedly did not do, are not required by my job description. And besides, it would only give me more documentation when I do start making calls to my buddies still in the Navy. About the way you use people here. About how once a retired military's contacts are transferred out of the DC area, suddenly, there is a downsizing in his area, or his performance becomes unsatisfactory and he is 'let go'. Matter of fact, there is that Captain who was in here last week. Did you know he was my skipper when I was engineer on USS Will Rogers?"
Twaddle Dumber blanched. That particular captain evidently had some connections that he was counting on heavily. Too bad for you, I thought. "Mr. Jacobs," he snarled. "Get him two weeks severance in lieu of notice. I want him out of here inside of the hour." He stomped off to his cubicle. Jacobs disconnected my telephone (I guess he thought I might make that call right away) and left without another word.
A cheque, the ink still wet, fluttered onto my bare desk just as I finished taping up my box of personal items. Jacobs, tried to make a menacing sneer, and ordered "Now, get the hell out of here." I chuckled, picked up the cheque, and started to leave. Then I stopped, set down the box, and pressed the test button on my watch. I left the cubicle to the accompaniment of my watch beeping, and Jacobs sputtering.
Surprisingly, given that I had just joined of the Unemployed-of-the-World Club, I was feeling great when I got home to my town house in the planned community of Burke, VA. You need to understand that being out of work was a very unique experience to me. I entered the Naval Academy right out of high school, spent twenty years in the Navy after graduating, and started work at that company the day after I retired. The feeling of freedom was rather heady.
My already good mood improved further when my mailbox revealed two invitations for me to interview for jobs. Carrying my enveloped prizes to the kitchen, I poured the single glass of wine that I permitted myself daily, and went to my den to see exactly what I was being interviewed for.
The red light on my answering machine was flashing when I sat down at my desk. The first message was a phone ad, the second was a dial tone and the third was a wrong number. The fourth message, was different.
"Mr. Evans. My name is Monique Sanderson, and I am the executive vice president of" and she named a large hotel chain whose corporate headquarters is located in the Washington Metropolitan area. "You sent your résumé to us. The position is one I have personal and final hiring approval. Your résumé intrigues me. Quite frankly, Mr. Evans, you intrigue me. I have sent you a response to your résumé, but I find that I have time on my calendar tomorrow at 10 am. If you are really interested in working for me, please be at my office for an interview." The soft, confident alto voice continued for a moment, giving me the address and directions to her office. "I look forward to meeting you, Mr. Evans. Good day to you."
I sipped my wine as I contemplated the three responses I had received. The two letters were for engineering management positions, suitable to my background and training. The pay would be high, and the hours long, but it would be interesting work. It would also be lonely. The other job, however, would involve people. That was why, on a whim, I had submitted a résumé for a job for which I was either grossly overqualified, or (perhaps more the case) grossly ill prepared.
Tomorrow was awfully short notice. I swept into the bathroom and checked out the haircut. A momentary flashback to earlier days had me in near panic. My hair was over my ears. But I was not "in the Navy" anymore. It would do, I thought, smiling at how hard some habits are to break. It would do.
Ms Sanderson's office was located in the hotel complex located in downtown DC. I took the Metro in from one of the satellite stations because I did not want to fight for parking. My Navy habits came to the fore again, however. I was an hour early, so I decided to take coffee in the hotel's cafe.
To my surprise, nerves prickled as I tried to help the hands of the clock to move towards 10 A.M.. This job was so different from anything I had ever tried to do in my life. My hope was that I would meet people in the job, and in particular, female people. I chuckled to myself as I admitted that I wanted to meet single, available female people most of all. I glanced at my watch again. I had left my beloved alarm watch behind as I did not want an inadvertent beep at the wrong moment. I headed for the elevator and took it to the top floor where a security guard checked my identification and directed me to Ms. Sanderson's office.
The door with Ms. Sanderson's name prominently painted on it opened onto a large, well appointed waiting room with surprisingly comfortable seating. Her secretary smiled when I arrived, offered me coffee and asked me to be seated while she announced me to Ms. Sanderson. I think I sat on the edge of my seat although I don't remember much of those few minutes. Memories of my midshipman interview with Admiral Rickover flitted through my mind. The grand old man of Naval Nuclear Power had lived down to every horror story I had been told about him. This interview would not be that bad. I hoped.
The door opened and a woman walked out, that smokey alto calling me from my revery. I started to stand and stopped midway. I am sure my mouth hung open and my eyes went wide. It was the Water Park Flower Lady, dressed in a stylish gray business suit and skirt, but my Flower Lady, none the less. I snapped myself back and stood to take her proffered hand. Amazingly, my first reaction was a desire to bow over it and make a courtly kiss. Thankfully, sweet reason prevailed, and I shook her hand with what I hoped was a firm, but not too firm, grip.
"Mr. Evans, thank you for coming on such short notice, but your résumé is so interesting, and my need so great, that I decided to try something... unusual in your case." The accent on "unusual" sent chills down my back. This woman was completely aware of her impact on males and was using it to full advantage.
"Thank you, Ms Sanderson. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you." God, that sounded so stilted.
She motioned me into the office and walked me to a pair of armchairs in an open setting, with a coffee tray between them. She sat down across from me and poured coffee for us both before starting to question me. She made small talk, referring to my résumé from time to time, and gradually I relaxed enough to start studying her.
I guessed her to be in her late twenties to mid thirties, although given her position, the latter was more likely. Her eyes were hazel, most of the time, anyway, but I thought that at least twice they shifted color to green or to yellow. She smiled easily, and unlike other people of my recent experience, she smiled with her eyes as well as her lips. The longer I sat there, the more attractive I found her.
"So tell me, Mr. Evans?" her voice became curious, "Why do you want to become a personal administrative assistant? Surely, you have better offers, ones more in line with your obvious training and background. Why do you want to be what might be called, a glorified secretary?"
The hazel eyes became hard and piercing. The answer to this question would seal the interview.
I decided honesty was safer. "For the simple reason that I am not happy doing those things. I am good at that work, and I am proud of what I have accomplished, but it is not enough. I want more, and I want to work with people. This job offers that." I grinned at a thought. "I am detail oriented enough, determined enough to learn and do what must be learned and done. Even if this is not what I ultimately need, I will give you good service, and I will not leave you in a lurch. And I don't think the woman guarding your door would appreciate or agree with that description of my duties whatever they are."
The black piercing eyes softened to yellow and back to hazel, while her smile slipped back onto her lips. "True enough. The job is much more than administrative. You will speak and act with the power and authority of my office, and be involved in important decisions affecting this company. And, I think you will do, quite nicely in fact. Well, Mr. Evans, when can you start?"
Thought became word. "Today?"
Her eyebrows rose. "Oh. I did not realize you were out of work."
I decided the truth would be the best policy again. I told her of the job I had left, and why. "So, if you would like to reconsider, or speak to my former employers, I will understand." Even if it did mean that she would probably tell me to get lost.
"No, I don't think so." She rose and went to her desk, picked up her phone. "Roselie, please come in here." The door opened to admit the secretary. It startled me to realize how very attractive she was. She was not tall, maybe five feet two inches in her conservative heels and blonde; her hair pulled back into a business-like bun. Her glasses did not detract from her classically beautiful face, and in fact, made her blue eyes seem impossibly large and deep. Her slim figure was turned out to advantage in a light blue business suit and skirt.
"Yes, Ms Sanderson?"
Ms Sanderson took my arm and walked me over to Roselie. "Roselie, this is Mr. Nathan Evans, our new personal assistant." She looked at me quizzically. "How should you like to be addressed in the office?" I told her Nate or Nathan would be fine. "Nathan, this is the best executive secretary in Washington DC, Roselie Brent."
I shook her hand and made a little bow. "Ms Brent, it is a pleasure."
She smiled and corrected me. "Oh, please, not so formal as that." She gave Ms Sanderson a mischievous grin. "At, least, not most of the time. Call me Roselie, please, Nathan." I smiled, but caught a slightly annoyed look from Ms. Sanderson. I chalked that up to over familiarity and decided to be very careful with the informalities with this woman.
"Roselie, Nathan is able to start today. Would you please take charge of him and get him started with his checking in down at personnel. Show him his office, help him choose his furniture and all that." She turned back to me. "I look forward to working with you, Nathan. I think it will be an interesting experience for us both."
I thanked her and then followed Roselie out of the office. My office, it turned out, was twice the size of the office manager's boss's boss's cubicle back at the old office. Not only that, it was an office, not a partition, with one door to the reception area and another one that opened directly into Ms Sanderson's office. Roselie noted my preferences for furniture and then took me to personnel. Once she told the supervisor that I was Ms Sanderson's new assistant, I got the royal treatment. It still took the better part of the day for me work my way through all of the pay, benefits, insurance and tax documents that go with working in the civilian world. That, at least, is one thing that the Navy has all over the "real world". You show up, you drop off your records, and you go to work.
I got back to the office at about 4:25. Roselie was putting the cover back on her computer and getting ready to leave. She smiled when she saw me. "All done?"
I gave her a wan smile. "I hope so. I am not sure how much more of that determined niceness I can handle, and If I have to look at one more 'sign at the x', I am going to scream."
That earned me a low throaty laugh. "Don't worry about it. We promise to stop being nice now that you are signed, sealed and delivered. Your furniture is in, as is your computer. The MIS folks will hook you up to the network and train you on that tomorrow. The boss lady is still in, but I need to scoot."
I grinned. "Okay, maybe tomorrow you can fill me in on how the pecking order works around here, and what I am supposed to be doing."
"That's easy. Whatever she tells you to do." I smiled appreciatively at how much feeling went into that word "she". "As for the pecking order, well, that ought to work itself out. See you tomorrow. I have a date tonight." She grinned impishly and half trotted out the door. I was half jealous of the fortunate fellow.
My office was even more amazing. The desk set was real wood, and the chair real leather. The computer on the credenza behind my desk was state of the art, and beside it sat an equally advanced notebook computer. I sat in my huge chair, shaking my head in amazement that so much could happen so fast. Less than thirty six hours after all but quitting the other job, and to be hired by her, the Flower Lady.
The connecting door opened and she walked in. She had taken off the suit jacket and wore only the skirt and blouse. I raised my estimation of her figure. Maybe I wasn't that jealous of Roselie's fellow after all. I stood to greet her. She smiled at the gesture. "Very nicely done, Mr. Evans. All settled in?"
"Yes and no. I think the personnel folks are done with me, and this..." I indicated the incredible office, "is more than I ever imagined. But I don't have the faintest idea what I am supposed to do. Heck, I am not even sure I will be able to find this place when I drive in tomorrow to use that private parking place they assigned me."
She grinned appreciatively. "Not to worry, my friend. I am sure I can keep you .... well occupied." Those pauses in her speech were starting to get to me. "In any case, I don't expect you to be a world beater the first day out. I will give you all the time you need, so long as it is not more than a week." The grin she gave me was so totally unexpected I gaped. Her laughter at my astonishment was a lovely, full sound. "What is it, Nathan? You don't think I can make a joke or what?"
I stuttered a response and she became serious. "All right, what is it? Something is bothering you. We will be working very closely and it is best to start as you intend to go."
I nodded and chose my words carefully. "Well, it is just that this morning, when Roselie made her little joke, and became a little familiar, you seemed to frown in disapproval. I thought then that you preferred a more formal relationship with your office staff."
She gave me a curious look, then remembered. "Oh, yes, that, well..." She let her voice trail off. "That was not a problem, Nathan. Trust me, and I do not mind a little familiarity inside the offices. I will trust your military instincts to tell you when to be formal."
"Yes, Ms Sanderson." I answered. What else could I have said?
"Starting now, sir!" She said with emphatic command. "In these offices, I prefer to be called Monique." then she softened her tone. "If you don't mind, that is."
"I am honored."
She looked at her watch and headed back for the door to her office. "Well, I have an engagement tonight, so we will make an early night of it. Don't expect such gifts regularly, though." she said with mock sternness. "Where are you parked by the way?" I told her and she started in surprise. "Why didn't you park in the space reserved for you?" then slapped her head. "Because the letter, which you have not yet received, tells you about it, and my phone message did not. Okay.. get your coat. I will drop you off at the parking lot. It is on my way anyway." I started to protest, but she was already through the door, only to return with her jacket and purse. "Lets go." She said cheerfully. I followed in her wake. "By the way. If that door is not locked, I expect you to use it if you have any question or any need to see me. I will lock it if I need privacy."
The remainder of the trip passed in a daze. She dropped me off at the metro "Kiss and Ride" stop. "We aren't that familiar." she grinned at me as I got out. As I closed the door, though, I could have sworn I heard her say. "Yet."
I stood at the curb, watching her drive away, marveling at the power of wishful thinking.
Surprisingly, I was able to fit in quite quickly at the office. The details of the work were completely different from anything I had ever done before, but the general nature of the work was problem identification, research and problem solution. Those were skills that my engineering and Navy background has honed to a fine edge. The difference was that instead of mechanical problems, for the most part, I was dealing with people problems.
A typical problem would be that hotel X had a problem with turnover of key personnel. As Executive VP, this problem fell in Monique's lap, who immediately handed off the investigation and research to me. It was so refreshing to find new problems and new challenges at this point in my life.
Of course, there were some downsides to the job. Like when Roselie was out of the office, for instance. Roselie ran that office with an efficiency and control that would have pleased a Master Gunnery Sergeant. While she was at that desk, the world and the work, flowed smoothly. When she was not there, however, that load fell on my ill prepared shoulders.
Oh, we got help from administration in the form of a temporary, but usually, all that meant was that I did not have to do the typing. (Good thing, too!). What did happen is that I had to manage who saw Monique, get her to her appointments on time, and generally direct traffic along with my normal tasks. Those days were not fun, and I was always very happy to see Roselie back the next day.
And I was meeting people. The problem was that none of the female people appealed to me. I started dating again; Some wonderfully attractive and intelligent women, too. I loved talking with them, listening to them, dancing with them. Women fascinate me, but for some reason, it did not click with any of them.
This trend continued over the next two months, until finally, I faced the fact that the woman I wanted, was my Flower Lady. Unfortunately, she was also my boss. I spent a long weekend at home, trying to decide what I should do. I could quit, and try to court her, but I had no real indication that such a suit would be well received. Besides, I did not want to lose the job. I really liked the work.
And in one of those rare moments of absolute honesty, I knew that I did not want to leave because that could mean not seeing her anymore. It was not your basic win-win situation. In the end, I decided to stay until (and if) I had some indication that she might want more from me, as well.
I had been on the job for nearly six weeks when things changed. It had been the Friday from hell. Roselie was out sick, for what seemed like the hundredth time, and I had been unable to get anyone up to cover her desk. And of course, almost every single director and hotel manager in the company had picked that day to want "just a few minutes of Ms Sanderson's time.". And of course, it was a day in which she did not have any time. Couple that with First Quarter reports to review and to issue, and it was not a good day.
I closed up Roselie's desk promptly at 4:30 and made a hasty retreat to my office. I did not know which of us, Roselie or I, made more money, but I surely knew who deserved the higher salary - and it was not me. I considered that Roselie might benefit from having a typist/receptionist assigned full time to her. It certainly occurred to me that I would benefit from such an arrangement. Thought became action, and picking up my notebook, I headed for the connecting door to Monique's office. I opened the door in time to hear her practically snarling. "... just wait till the next time, Allain, just wait." her voice paused. "Hah! You wish! You only think you look forward to it. Thanks for at least telling me you were standing me up. Chivalry is not quite dead!" and the phone crashed to its cradle.
Then she saw me in the doorway, and for the first time in my experience, she blushed. I found it delightful. It made my Lady Boss seem more approachable, less intimidating, somehow. I strolled over to her desk, picked up her telephone handset and made a show of examining it in minute detail. "Well, no visible damage." I put it to my ear. "Dial tone still works. Let me know if it needs replacement." She gave me a look that would freeze water. I made a show of cringing, and that finally broke her mood and she laughed, perhaps a little self consciously while motioning me to one of the easy chairs.
"I am sorry you had to see that. It was just after a day like today, being stood up at the last moment was the final straw." She laid her head back in the chair and closed her eyes. "And I have to go to this thing tonight. Damn!" I asked her what the event was. "It is a charity affair. The company supports a children's center, and this is one of those $250 a plate dinner balls. I am the company's lead executive on the charity, so I have to go."
She looked so disgusted, I had to smile. "Well, it seems like a wonderful cause, and you certainly don't need an escort. Last time I checked, women were even allowed in bars without their men's permission."
She gave me a surprised, almost shocked look, and then burst out in that rich laugh that made my toes curl. Then she became serious again. "Oh, it is not that. It is just that there are a couple of men who would like to think they can make a claim on me. Old flames, if you will, but too much the gentlemen to make a move when I am escorted. Showing up stag will likely encourage them and I will be dodging them all night." She grimaced, then brightened. "I don't suppose that you..." her voice broke off. "No, never mind, I am sure you have better, more productive uses of a Friday night."
In truth, I did not. Dating other women had lost its appeal. "That I what, Monique?"
She gave me a sidelong glance. "That you might like to sample $250 rubber chicken tonight?"
I smiled. "You did say that this was a dinner ball?" I placed my emphasis on the word "ball". She looked at me quizzically and then nodded. "And that means - dancing, as in waltzes?" She sat up a little straighter and smiled again. "Well... if I am assured a few dances, and at least a couple of waltzes, I might be induced to give up my plans for the evening. I can vacuum anytime." I ducked a pencil aimed in the general direction of my head. "Make that three waltzes."
She laughed again. "It is formal, you know."
"No problem. What time?"
"I have to be back here in the Banquet Room by seven for cocktails. Dinner is at eight and then dancing starts at about nine thirty. We ought to be able to leave by eleven."
"Fine. If you need to stay later to twist some arms and wring out some wallets, we can do that, too." That got me a slightly sheepish smile. "I have to run home and change. Are you staying here, or do you want me to pick you up?"
"I will change in my room here, Nate. You can meet me there, say 6:45?" I nodded. We exchanged good byes and I headed home.
The gods smiled on me. Rush hour traffic was only miserable and I was able to get home in good order. I was glad that as a retired Naval Officer, I could still wear the uniform for special occasions. I pulled out my Mess Dress Blue uniform. Contrary to its name, no Navy uniform is really blue. They are black. This one consisted of a waist coat, slacks, a front pleated shirt, bow tie and suspenders. Oh yes, and a gold satin cummerbund. With special tiny medals and white gloves, it was one of my favorite uniforms - I just wish the darn thing had pockets. I put my license, id, emergency credit cards and some money in a waist pouch that I hid beneath the cummerbund, and headed back to the hotel.
I made a quick stop at the men's room to check my appearance before calling up to Monique's room for admittance to the executive floor where her apartments. I was amused with myself. I had not been this nervous since my first date almost twenty five years ago. At least this time there would not be a six foot tall, 230 pound steel worker papa awaiting my arrival to make thinly veiled promises about my future health if I got "too handy" with his "little girl".
At precisely 6:45, I presented myself, hat in hand, at Monique's door. When she opened it, I don't know which of us was more stunned.
Monique was gorgeous. Her hair fell luxuriantly to her shoulders and flashed in the light of the room. My fingers curled in sympathy with my desire to get my hands into the thick, fiery mass. Her make up was bolder than usual; bright rich colors that made her amazed, wide-open eyes sparkle like green jewels. Emeralds twinkled at her ears and throat, highlighting a dress that must have been specially ordered to match her hair. Creamy cleavage stood in stark contrast to the rich red wine color of the fitted bodice of the dress. A quick glance down assured me that it was not too tight to dance in. In fact, when she moved to let me in, a long glimpse of shapely leg flashed to the split skirt. She would have no trouble with dancing in that skirt.
She recovered first, and invited me the rest of the way in. "I am surprised to see you wearing a uniform. Pleased, but surprised." A look of elfin mischief lit her eyes. "Stand at attention!" The order was snapped out and twenty plus years of conditioned reflex took over. I snapped to attention. Once there, I decided to play along and held my stance as she, clasping her hands behind her, strolled around me in a parody of an inspection. I caught her scent behind me just as I felt her breath on my ear. "If I knew you looked this good in uniform, I would have instituted a dress code in your contract." I relaxed and started to turn to her. "You are at attention, Mr. Evans!" The drill sergeant was back. I returned to position. "That is better." She was back in my line of vision. "Stand easy, Mr. Evans. Let's go, Nate. I am suddenly quite looking forward to this evening." I watched her in amazement as she turned on heel to get her cape and her bag. Strangely enough, I found myself looking forward to learning more about this woman.
Outside her door, I offered her my arm and we walked to the elevator. I was a little surprised to find myself having to crane my head slightly to look into those incredible eyes. The heels she wore were like stilts, and a tall woman to begin with, she was taller than me in them. Another new experience.
Monique took over the room within moments of entering the banquet hall. She was obviously committed to the charity, and more than one well dressed man found himself literally cornered during the cocktail hour. The price of their escape was a fat cheque to the children's fund. I watched with bemused appreciation as she would entreat, cajole and all but coerce her quarry into giving up the goods. She was knowledgeable of the financial workings of the charity, and was able to allay any concern of how the money would be spent. I am not sure, but I think I heard a collective sigh of relief from the, as yet, un-stalked potential contributors, when the call to dine came.
She was bubbling with pleasure as I seated her at the head table and took my seat beside her. "twenty five thousand dollars, Nathan. We will be able to do so much with that money." And she grinned malevolently. "And I am not done yet."
Dinner was decidedly better than the promised rubber chicken, and I made a note to send Monique's compliments and appreciation to the banquet staff. Each course was accompanied by a wine suitable for the food. I refused the wine, and kept sipping at the glass of water the diligent young waiter kept full. Monique's brows furrowed when she realized what I was doing. "Nathan, you aren't trying the wines. If you are worried about driving home, I will have the hotel reserve a room for you at my expense. After all, you are here at my request. You should be able to enjoy yourself."
I grinned at her concern. "Contrary to the uniform stereotype, Monique, I don't drink much anymore. Once glass a day is about all I will allow myself. Suffice it to say, I had to fight my way out of its grip once, and don't want to do so again."
"Oh, Nathan, why didn't you tell me you were in recovery?" She raised her hand and the young waiter came running. She whispered to him, and handed him her own half filled glass. "That is that." She said with finality. "I apologize, Nathan. You should have said something." Her tone was reproachful.
"It is okay. I am over that. I went through a bad patch and tried to escape with a bottle. Other than a glass of wine ever so often, I just don't like the taste anymore. Please, don't let me inhibit your enjoyment of your dinner."
Her eyes softened in empathy. "I am good listener, Nathan, if you ever want to talk about it."
And I thought I had been so nonchalant. The woman's perception was scary. I did not want to face those memories tonight. "Maybe some other time, friend. Tonight, I simply want to enjoy the evening, the dancing and your company." That stopped her. Her eyes went wide again.
"Well. Then we will indeed try to do that. I hope for your sake, Mr. Evans, that you are as good a dancer as you have led me to believe, or it will not go well for you. Your boss wants to do some showing off on the dance floor." Her chin came up and her nostrils flared in challenge.
"I guess we will see when the music starts, won't we?" I said in an amused tone, which earned me a strangely dark look. Before I could find out what I had said, the desert tray arrived. She selected a piece of cake made of eight different types of chocolate, while I took a serving of chocolate mousse.
Monique took a bite of her cake and her eyes went shut in pure pleasure. "Heaven. God, what that man does with chocolate should be by prescription only. Here, taste." Her fork found its way to my mouth with a small dab of the cake. I took it with the tip of my tongue. It was wonderful. I returned the favor with a dip of my mousse. The mood became sensual, almost sexual as we savored the rich flavors of our deserts. Our eyes locked and I felt captivated by those incredible violet orbs. The movement of her full red lips as she endeavored to savor every bit of taste and texture fixated me. I have been in bed with women and not felt as intimate with them as I did with Monique at that very moment.
The mood broke when our waiter came to clear, and the band started playing the dance music. The first set was mostly current popular music, and neither of us made any move for the dance floor. I was surprised to find her hand resting on mine on the table. I felt remarkably private with this woman, as if we were not surrounded by hundreds of people. How long we sat, listening to, but not hearing the music, watching, but not seeing the dancers, I really could not say. All I really remember about that interval in time is the warmth of her hand, the elusive scent of her perfume and the soft smile that would light her face whenever she glanced at me.
The sudden change in sound level from the throbbing, emotion filled beat of the latest top forty songs to the softer, melodies of a waltz snapped us out of our cocoons. I stood, and bowed to her. "I believe that I was promised a waltz. May I have the honor of this dance?" I sounded pompous, even to myself, but she took my hand in hers, stood, and made a picture perfect curtsey.
"Of course. I look forward to seeing if you dance as well as you claim." Her tone was one of playful disbelief. The floor was mostly empty as she took up her skirt and we started the graceful, swirling motions of the waltz. Most of the younger attendees had left the floor when the first strains of the Strauss waltz had sounded, so we had all the room we needed to waltz as the waltz should be danced. She was superb. Graceful and sure of step, she followed me expertly, which allowed me to show her to best advantage as her partner.
However, as the band moved into the final bars of the piece, I caught that look I had come to respect in the office. It was a devilish little grin that always meant she was about to toss a fox among the chickens and see how I would handle it. The sneaky witch started to take the lead! For those uninitiated to the joys of the waltz, it is one of the most sensuous experiences a person can have with another person while still dressed and in public. However, the male member of the pair can (and usually does) look the complete clod if his female partner starts trying to lead the dance. His bulk, trying to follow her movements, usually ends up looking ungraceful, at best, and completely inept and untrained at worst. Fortunately, this was not the first time this little trick had been tried with me.
I pulled her closer to me, so that our hips were firmly in contact, and taking a tight grip on her lower back, proceeded to increase our turn rate in the time to the crescendo of the waltz's finale. My superior strength and leverage, combined with those fantastic heels she was wearing, gave her little choice. She either followed my lead, or tripped over her own feet. She followed.
The music stopped, and holding her hand at arms length, I bowed again. Her grin told me she had not been displeased with my reaction, and she again curtseyed. Suddenly, applause sounded, started by the leader of the band, and was picked up by the other couples. I glanced around, and was startled to see that we were the only couple on the floor. Fortunately, I did not have a mirror nearby, but the heat rushing to my face left no doubt that I was blushing. Monique saw it, and laughed, then pulled herself into my arms and signaled the band to play some more. The next dance was not a waltz, but it was a slow dance that we could do "cheek-to-cheek".
"So," I said with my head resting on hers, my lips near her ear, "How did I grade out?"
She chuckled appreciatively. "You know very well you danced wonderfully. I am impressed. Few men these days have a real feel for the waltz. Fewer still know how to deal with... a change of lead..."
"Thank you, Mother."
She pushed back from me in surprise. "I am not your mother, Nathan." she said in mock anger.
"No, but she is why I can waltz." I pulled her back into my arms. "She insisted on dancing lessons, twice a week from age 12 to 15. At 15 Dad got involved. The dance lessons were interfering with football practice and the coach was complaining. After that, it was only on Sundays that I had to go to dance class. God, but I hated those lessons."
"Really? But you dance so well, now."
"Yeah, well, long about age fifteen, I discovered that girls really like to dance, and I also discovered that my Mom's kind of dancing kept the girl really close and personal. After that, I liked the lessons a lot more, and later at the Naval Academy, when dances were the only social life you were allowed for months, formal dance training served me in very good stead."
"And where did you learn that trick you used on me there at the end?" She was trying to look stern, but her lips kept trying to smile.
"At dance class. Mary Ellen Baxter, the terror of the males at Madame Rainier's School of Dance. She hated following, and the boys hated dancing with her because Madame would always blame the boy for not leading. I finally got fed up and dancing with her became a quiet battle for supremacy. It was nip and tuck until we both hit puberty. She got... ummm.. feminine, and I grew five inches and gained 45 lbs of muscle. I am never sure if I won, or if she decided to win by other means."
Monique laughed delightedly. "Oh, if she got... feminine, as you say, I am sure it was the latter. What happened to her, then?"
"She was my steady the rest of high school. I was the only guy worth dancing with, I guess. Once I left to take my appointment at Annapolis, we lost touch. I think she is married with four kids now."
The music ended, and we walked back to our table. We danced some more, and she worked on some more contributors. It was a lovely evening. Except for one small incident.
I had gone to get her a drink, and returned to find her in heated discussion with a man. He was tall, but overweight. Still he had several inches and many pounds on her and was confronting her in a very aggressive manner. I did not like it. I stepped up to them, placed myself between them and gave Monique her drink. Her large 'friend' did not like it. "Who are you, anyway? Why don't you take yourself off, sailor-boy? I want to talk to your Mistress. It is nothing you need to hear."
I turned to face him, seeing that he was already fairly drunk. "I don't think so. First of all, I am her escort. Secondly, I don't care for your behavior. And thirdly, I have not been a boy in thirty years. Now, why don't you go get sober." I took Monique's arm to lead her away, when the man grabbed my shoulder.
"No you don't, I am not done with her yet." His fingers were strong, and dug into my shoulder, painfully, even through the padded shoulder of my waistcoat.
I gripped his wrist and twisted it free of my shoulder, then turned it into a hammer lock. "Oh, but you are quite through. Now either leave us alone, or leave. Your choice." I pushed him away, and walked away with Monique. "What was that all about?"
She hesitated a moment before answering, obviously choosing her words. "An old relationship." She finally said. "One who does not recognize that it is over, and who thinks he can still call on me. Thank you for that. He was drunk or he would have backed off much sooner."
Nothing happened the rest of the night, but it was not as much fun afterwards. Monique was quieter, more contemplative. Finally, I escorted her back to her private rooms. I was in a quandary as to what to do, whether I should kiss her good night or not. Monique, evidently, did not suffer the same insecurity. When we got to her room, and she had turned the key, unlocking the door, she turned to face me, her back against the door. God, but she was lovely. I wanted to hold and kiss her in the worst way. My hands fisted at my sides as I ran through the list of pros and cons in my head one more time.
Before I could do anything, she embraced me, and initiated a kiss that made every memory pale to insignificance. I had never before appreciated the distinction of being kissed, rather than being the kisser before. In her heels, she was taller than I, and was kissing me from above, as I had often kissed women. It was an incredibly new and erotic sensation. Passion flared and I kissed back, pulling her into my embrace and shifting from kissed to kisser. We warred sensuously for long moments until by mutual agreement, we broke the kiss. I am not sure which of us looked more dazed. She looked like I felt.
"That...." She gulped a little bite of air. "That may have gotten a little out of hand. That was wonderful, Nathan, but I don't think we are ready to follow up on that. We have a lot to learn about each other, first. You" her voice taking on an emphatic tone, "You have much to learn about me, in particular, before we are ready to go any further. And tonight is not the night for such revelations. Tonight is perfect, as it is."
I inhaled deeply, trying to clear my fogged wits. She was right, of course. Hell, she was my boss. We had to work together. Mentally and emotionally shaking myself, I forced myself to smile. "Yes, it is perfect. And it is enough. Good night, flower lady, sleep well." I leaned up and gave her a peck on the cheek. Her eyes widened momentarily, and then she grinned. Her back still to the door, she turned the knob, opened the door, and backed into her room, her eyes still on me.
"Good night, Nathan. I had a wonderful time. Thank you for that, and thank you, again, for escorting me. See you Monday." She slipped all the way inside and closed the door. I waited for the quiet click of the door lock, and then made to the garage for my car and the start of my trip home. It had indeed been a wonderful time.