Hey all. In my fictional worlds unreasonable behavior, even potentially distasteful or controversial behavior, can be excused or at least accepted if I understand why a character behaves a certain way. In this particular story Tunie agrees to be a mistress because she can’t support herself. Point blank. To put it lightly, it’s not an ideal solution. Society has put all sorts of angles on a woman’s body and a man’s efforts to get it from her, even if he doesn’t mean her any harm. Society would have you believe there’s only one right and wrong in a situation like this. Of course, this is fiction. *winks* So we can give the collective finger to society’s constraints, no? In this unedited snippet Tunie makes the call that sets the wheels in motion for her romance with Charlie. Enjoy! And be sure to tell me what you think. – SS
…she wasn’t prideful enough to think that she didn’t have to consider Charles Douglas’ offer. She did. She needed money if she was going to keep a roof over her head, and he was offering some.
So, later that night as she sat amidst her packed boxes, Tunie called him.
She must have hesitated a beat too long because he repeated, “Douglas.”
“Hi, Mr., um, this is Tunie. I met you in the coffee shop earlier today. You gave me your card, and – ”
“Where are you?”
Okay, old Charlie was apparently not a patient man. “At home,” she said, adopting the same, time saving, short speech.
“Give me your address. I’ll come get you for dinner.”
“I’ll be there in 20 minutes.”
Well, she thought, hanging up. Here we go.
She ran through the shower and quickly threw on her best dress, a sleeveless LBD that she often wore on job interviews with her only good sweater, a black cardigan with small, sparkly gold buttons that had been her mothers. She added black tights and her mothers’ knee length black boots that pinched her feet just a bit, thin gold hoops, and some lip gloss. Then she pulled her natural into a conservative bun low and to the side and added a small gold bow. Done.
The buzzer sounded, and Tunie jumped. Her nerves were shot, but she squared her shoulders, put on her coat, grabbed her purse, and went out to meet him. She did not want him inside her home, even if it was only her home for a few more days.
“You’re ready.” He seemed surprised.
He examined her quickly but thoroughly then led the way to a sleek black BMW. He handed her into the front seat, and Tunie shivered. His scent lingered in the cool interior, clean and indescribably male. She smelled him not cologne, and it was not unpleasant.
They said nothing as he drove away from Pilsen toward Halsted. She was surprised when they pulled up in front of a familiar Greek restaurant. She’d peeked in the window before, so she knew it was beautifully decorated, but it was not terribly elegant or trendy. It didn’t seem like his kind of place. She hoped that was a good sign.
He left the car with the valet and guided her in, a hand at her back. They were seated quickly.
“You drink?” He asked.
“Not often, but yes.”
He ordered their wine and food without asking her what she wanted or giving her a chance to look at the menu.
“The family style dinner has several courses. You’ll be able to try different things.”
She just nodded. She wasn’t a fussy eater. She was just glad she was going to eat some real food and not the peanut butter and banana sandwich that would have been her dinner.
The wine appeared, and he gestured for her to try it. She did, smiled at the waiter, and took a large sip after he filled her glass.
“What’s your name?” He asked, the second they were alone.
“Petunia Ann Marshall.”
“Petunia?” That smile flirted with his full mouth again.
“Yeah, Petunia. I had a twin sister named Poppy who died in a fire.”
She shrugged and took another sip of wine. “I was a baby when it happened.”
Salads arrived and a pink spread.
“Greek caviar,” he told her. “Try it.”
It was good. She nodded, chewing.
“So you have no other family?”
“No. My dad died in the same fire that killed my sister, and my mother died when I was 14.”
“Have you ever been a mistress?”
Tunie’s eyes doubled in size, and she looked at him, hoping for some humor, but he appeared as stoic and serious as ever.
“Would you like to be mine?”
Tunie almost said no, but honesty likely was not the best policy in this situation. “What would I have to do besides sleep with you?”
“Whatever you like,” he answered, in no way discomfited by their plain speaking. “You will have to make yourself available to me for a reasonable amount of time, but like a job you will have at least one day off per week.”
And so it went as he ran down the details. The most important of these – he would furnish her with an apartment. Most of her days would be her own, but he would prefer that she not work, as he did not want to be slave to her work schedule. He said the arrangement would not affect her career – she was impressed he used the word career to talk about her barista gig with a straight face – and he would pay all of her living expenses and provide her with a cell phone and an allowance. He named a monthly sum that would have taken her at least three months to earn at the coffee shop. He would also provide her with a credit card for clothes and such.
“I will occasionally need you to act as my date to functions or parties, and you’ll need to dress up.”
It sounded like a dream gig, if she didn’t have to earn her salary and perks on her back. “And sexually?” she asked when their main course was delivered.
“My sexual tastes are not exotic. I don’t like pain with sex, and I don’t care for mind games, light spanking and dominant behavior are as far as I go. I will not share you with anyone, and I’m not fond of toys.”
Light spanking and dominant behavior. O-kay. Tunie blew out a breath and filled her mouth with food to give herself a chance to think. God help her, she didn’t even know what to ask.
“I’ll expect you to remain faithful to me for the duration of our engagement as well.”
She nodded. That was easy enough. She was no femme fatale, and she’d kind of assumed if a man was paying for your body he wouldn’t want you to share it with anyone else at the same time. Duh.
“I’ll need you to have a complete physical, and I will require that you get a birth control shot or provide formal verification that you’ve had one recently. I will pay for the medical expenses, and any you should have during our engagement.”
She smiled a bit to hear it called an engagement. Classy.
“You called it an engagement. That’s a classy way to describe it.”
“This needn’t be seedy or any other negative adjective society might place on our arrangement. We are both benefiting from this deal. I won’t hurt or exploit you, Tunie.”
Some would say keeping a mistress was exactly that, but she kept that comment behind her teeth. And she noticed he made no mention of fun, but she’d already figured that out for herself.
“I will pay you monthly, and if at any time you decide the arrangement is not to your liking, we will part amicably. That goes both ways, and I will give you a month in the apartment to find new living arrangements.
“I want to be very clear about something. I want a mistress because I do not want emotional entanglements. I have no interest in marriage, so it’s best you understand now there will be no talk of love or any of the other finer feelings women like to attach to sex. I won’t be discussing my feelings or telling you about problems at work or issues I have with my family. This will be a soft business arrangement, nothing more, nothing less, and I require that you keep the details to yourself. I do not want anyone to know that you are a paid mistress. In the world’s eyes you will simply be my girlfriend.”
Finer feelings women like to attach to sex? A soft business arrangement? He sure knew how to turn a phrase. He was very cool and collected about all of this. Of course, this probably wasn’t the first time he’d said these words, made these arrangements.
What made a man decide that something like this was preferable to having a real relationship? He sat there calmly eating their excellent dinner as though they were discussing a news item on Twitter, when just the thought of the move she was contemplating had her stomach tumbling like gumballs in a machine. Suddenly Tunie wanted to shake him out of his complacency.
“Have you had many mistresses?”
“That is none of your business.”
“Will your peers and such raise a brow at you squiring a black woman around?” she shot back, undeterred.
“No,” he said simply. “And if they do I could care less. So.” He folded his napkin with precise movements. “What say you?”
“You sound like a lawyer.”
“Your answer,” he pressed.
“Yes,” she said, and immediately wanted to call the word back.
“Excellent,” he said, promptly, and raised his hand for the waiter.
Tunie sat back, not liking the gleam that had appeared in those pale blue eyes before he turned away. She released a harsh breath, and tipped the rest of her wine down. Her glass hit the table with an audible clunk despite the snowy white table cloth, and only by the strongest will did she keep herself from jumping up and running for dear life.
Perhaps he knew how she was feeling, that her entire body was tensed to spring like a gazelle with a mountain lion’s scent in the wind. His hand covered hers on the table. It seemed a comforting clasp, but he held her firmly.
Dessert appeared. She forced down a bite of baklava and pushed the rest around while she watched him eat with good appetite. They didn’t linger over their coffee, and while he settled the check she visited the ladies room.
Once behind the closed, locked door, the tears fell, and Tunie had to stuff her hand in her mouth to keep the sobs quiet. She allowed herself to have roughly 60 seconds of pity. Then she cleaned herself up, reapplied her lip gloss and turned to go. She lingered for another moment, eyes on her sad-faced reflection. She looked even thinner than usual, and tired, but she did not, as she’d feared, look beaten. This is just a temporary setback, she told herself. I’ll make it through this. I will make it. I always do…