I was struck recently by the idea that your story or your hero/heroine is only as good as your villain. I can’t get it out of my head. You all know I’m always crabbing, I need more tension! I need something to happen! And I guess this is where that keen desire stems from. You need villainy so the goodness and love we love to write about will have teeth and really mean something. At first I thought the villain in Charles and Tunie’s story would be the mistress thing, a construct rather than an actual person. But ultimately, it wasn’t enough. First the mistress thing isn’t new, not in reality or in fiction. Yeah, they started out their relationship badly, but when it became patently obvious there was love there, why would that misunderstanding be enough to keep them from the ultimate? It wouldn’t. These are smart complex people who recognize that they are smart complex people. Enter The Bitch. I’ve alluded to her all along, this shadowy female horror who is responsible for turning our Charlie bad. But in this unedited snippet I start to dig in and flesh out what she did to him. I don’t think I’ve gone too far, but then again, I’m not the most conservative character myself. And just to be a complete tease. I have to tell you how this snippet ends is just the beginning of where this thing is going. 🙂 Lemme know what you think!
…He didn’t let Tunie serve their breakfast in bed. He didn’t want The Bitch to lurk in the room where they made love, so he joined her at table. They ate in silence. It was only as they sat drinking their coffee that he spoke again.
“I was no match for her. She was only a few years older than me, but it might as well have been a lifetime in terms of experience and cunning. I was spoiled, pampered. I’d never known hardship or had to master the art of lying in order to survive.”
“I hate to break it to you, honey,” Tunie rose to remove his plate. “But you’re still pampered.”
He laughed softly. “Yes, I am, darling, thanks to you.” He rose to stand at the window.
Sensing he needed a little distance, Tunie sat nearby on the couch and waited.
“I found out later she’d lied to me about everything. She told me she was working catering trying to save up enough money to finish her degree in elementary education. She wanted to be a grammar school teacher. In reality the closest she’d ever been to a college was the married professor she was screwing. I found out about him later. He sought me out after she’d come back to him for yet more money to warn me. But it was too late. She already had her hooks in deep.
“She didn’t sleep with me right away. She was quite clever. She whet my appetite for weeks first while she milked me for dinners and flowers and gifts. My friends were smarter than I was. They were instantly suspicious of her. Especially my friend Nori. You’ll meet him soon, darling. We’ve known each other since college. But she was smarter than them. When they didn’t like her, she stopped accompanying me to parties, claiming she wanted me all to herself. We either stayed home or went out just the two of us.
“When she finally did sleep with me she blew me away. I wasn’t a virgin by any means, but I was not prepared for that kind of sex. Nothing was off limits, and at first I didn’t have to ask for anything. She just offered, she just gave, and I thought I was in heaven. That I’d found the most sensual, perfect woman who adored me. But after I was hooked, after I became needy, wanting her more than I wanted to work or spend time with my family or friends, things changed.
“She started to ask for things. She never came straight out, she’d just let me know in conversation that she needed something. And I gave. Money was nothing to me. I’d already started to dabble in the stock market and had some luck, and my father had always been generous with my allowance. For my part, I was quite frugal, and had a fair bit of money saved. My parents encouraged me from a very young age to save and spend, but to save first.
“But that doesn’t mean they were clueless. When the bank manager realized I’d started to dip into my savings on a regular basis, he told my father. All perfectly illegal, but relationships, particularly profitable business relationships can be powerful motivators. Plus, the old boy had known me since I was a tot. He was concerned I might have developed a drug problem, and he wanted my old man to get me straightened out before I got too far under the bus.
“Good old boy, him.”
“Shall we take a take a walk, Charlie?”
He turned to look at her, a smile playing over that pink mouth. The sun through the windows had created the perfect silhouette around his body. He appeared almost surreal. But then he moved, and he was back to being her flesh and blood Charlie again thankfully.
“Yes, my darling. I think I’d rather get this out outside. Like as not we’ll have need of some fresh air soon enough.”
Tunie bit her lip in worry. He sounded so tired and bitter. What could this broad possibly have done to him?
They walked to the lake, hand in hand, and if the specter of his past had not been hanging over their heads like the sword of Damocles she’d have loved this moment. It was the first time he’d held her hand in daylight.
She was probably crazy to think of something so silly and romantic when he was so upset. But right then he didn’t seem to be. He had a little smile on his face, and he was swinging her hand just a bit, like he was happy.
When he looked down at her, the warmth in his eyes pulled a smile from her, and when he stopped and pulled her into a hug she snuggled close and sighed in contentment. Then she remembered why they were here.
He seemed to recall at the same moment.
“Let’s sit down here, darling,” he led her to an unoccupied bench. “I think I’d like to spit out this rather disgusting mouthful fast, if you don’t mind.”
He settled beside her and pulled her hand onto his thigh in both of his and clasped it tight.
“Monica was a very clever girl, darling. She didn’t just have two faces, she had at least 20, and all of them were smiling with all of her teeth. I bought her clothes, purses, jewels, whatever she asked for, without really asking. In hindsight it’s fucking embarrassing how she played me.”
“You were in love.”
“I was fucking stupid.”
Tunie laughed, and she was thrilled to see that he smiled too. Perhaps those old wounds were already healing.
“You were young, and she sounds like a master manipulator.”
“But Tunie, I wasn’t actually stupid!”
“No, but you were young,” she repeated. “And you thought you were in love. Now tell me the rest.”
“Well, my father stepped in. He was smart, my old man. He didn’t tell me, you can’t see her anymore. He knew I was too old for him to lay down the law, and too young to listen, so he put a bug in my ear. He pointed out that my money was running low, and since I wasn’t working, unless you count squiring her all over town, I didn’t have any more money coming in.
“Being a spoiled brat, I laughingly suggested that he might loan me a few bucks. And also laughing he told me he wouldn’t dream of it. He very casually pointed out that a grown man took care of his own woman, and if this was my woman, who loved me, she wouldn’t mind slowing down a bit. After all, he said, it’s not as though she’s only with you for your money. And off he went with a smile on his face.
“Well, he was right, I thought. I’ll just tell Monica the well’s about to run dry, and we’ll eat popcorn at home for awhile while I figure out my next move.”
“I bet she was pleased as punch to hear that.”
Charles shook his head angrily. “Don’t you believe it. That was the first time I saw her look ugly. I’ll never forget that look. Her mask slipped for a split second, but it was long enough for me to see what she really thought of me. I broke it off with her right then and there.
“I was upset, pouting I guess you could say, at being duped, but my parents stepped in, and because I was spoiled, they took me on a trip to Spain to cheer me up. My dad spent most of his time working, but my mother and I went everywhere together. In Seville we walked all the way up to the top of the Giralda. And in Asturias we stood on top of a mountain on the day of epiphany and listened to the bells echoing through a mist. We stayed in a friend’s summer home in Oviedo and swam every day in the Atlantic. It was wonderful.”
“But,” Tunie prompted when he fell silent.
He sighed. “But then we went home. And reality was waiting to pounce on me like a hungry lion.”
“Let me guess, Ms. Monica fell pregnant?”