At forty-five, for the most part, I turned off my libido when at the office. Around the company, it was, perhaps, noticeable that I did not react to things. Sexually unflappable. It had been remarked on. There had been various rumors in the company about my sexual preferences, proclivities, or lack thereof, etc.
Of course, I couldn’t care less. I had a rich social life outside of the office and a variety of relationships that had both no place and no bearing on my occupation. I kept my private life quite private, and in my opinion, others should do the same, thank you very much.
Still, I wasn’t immune to desire, merely adept at repressing it.
Margot, my closest confidante as well as one of my oldest colleagues in publishing, often teased me about the predictability of my desires. Thick thighs, buxom, brainy, bespectacled women, often somewhat younger than myself. In fact, she often pointed them out to me. Covertly, as never to break the protocol of our workplace.
“Henry, look, they’re stocking up on your type,” she might whisper with a smirk, pointing out a little cadre of junior copywriters. Fresh from college and freshly hired.
I did not let my gaze linger, though she seemed to love to tempt me to.
She was partly correct. I did have a “thing” for a certain “type,” though my desires were far more diverse than she implied. I had, for example, once fallen madly for a lanky woman two years my senior, who instead of cheeky sass had a cool, cruel humor and a penchant for laconic observation. That woman being Margot. Though she would wave this off if I brought it up.
“Yes, a few decades ago, we had a summer of fucking, and then you got bored,” she said with a yawn.
“You got married,” I protested. “It was hardly a marriage,” she insisted.
Of all the office women I attempted not to ogle, and Margot relished pointing out, Fiona was the queen. My queen. A radiant cherub I tried desperately not to look at for too long or god forbid come close to, as she was the sun to my Icarus.
God, her name was Fiona! How devastatingly perfect was that? She was a tiny thing, barely five feet, looking delectable in high-waisted slacks and tight turtlenecks. Her silver-framed glasses so huge and round they took up most of her freckle-peppered face.
Fiona with her reddish hair half up in a bun. A bun held together with a pencil of all things! Thick thighed and round-bottomed. She was Velma, she was an R. Crumb drawing, she was heavenly.
She was not buxom, to throw a bit of cold water on Margot’s reductionist theories of my attraction. What Fiona lacked up top, she more than made up for in hips and thighs and a glorious ass.
And she was brilliant! Witty, quick, proficient in both banter and discourse, good at her job, a wonderful copywriter, and adept at all things organizational.
“Isn’t she a spitfire,” Margot commented after we sat in on a meeting with the marketing team, Fiona was part of.
“Three years out of college and not taking any guff from anyone. She orders the old men in the company around as if she were herding sheep. What does she care? She’ll be the boss in ten years. She’s brilliant,” Margot said with glee, watching me squirm.
She was all of that, indeed. She had her finger on the pulse of contemporary culture the way dinosaurs like us could never.
And what did she see if she looked my way? A grumpy dandy in his forties, with more salt than pepper in his hair. Tortoiseshell glasses and a gray glen plaid three-piece suit. A lilac tie on a crisp white shirt, a floppy pocket square of purple and blue flowers, and a head full of perversity and regret. A clean-shaven New Yorker of some pale European stock, who was leering at her over the top of his glasses from across the room and thought himself a brooding ancestry of Oscar Wilde.
Margot was aware of my impression of the girl and constantly brought her up. It was annoying to the point of being strange. Margot often found little digs and pet peeves to amusingly jab me with, but her constant reminder of Fiona’s existence was beyond that. I wondered if she too had a bit of a crush.
It was at the holiday party that my desire became an obsession. Mostly because I am a vain old man who loves nothing more than adoration.
As I walked into the office in late December, I found it festooned with lights and sparkles. Margot handed me a glass of prosecco (not champagne as was advertised on the invitation) and then motioned with her glass to the other side of the room.
“You’re just in time,” she said to me.
“Oh, Margot!” The saucer-eyed vixen said with a wave, nearly skipping over.
“Fiona, darling! Of course, you know Henry, he’s the monster we keep down in acquisitions everyone always talks about in hushed tones,” Margot said with a saucy grin.
Fiona laughed out loud, so loud I had to do a double-take. She looked glorious, with her face beet red from wine. She held out her hand to shake mine with a huge grin on her tipsy face. I shook her hand and then shook my head at her spirit.
“Oh look, Meredith just came in. I have to tackle her, excuse me, won’t you? Miss Byrne, Mr. Conroy,” Margot said, giving me a look that said, “let’s see your austerity deal with this.”
As Margot left, Fiona’s smile suddenly faded. Her hand went limp in mine.
“I’m so stupid, I didn’t put it together. Conroy? Henry Conroy?” she said, in almost a whisper.
“Yes,” I sighed, wondering if she had heard some of the more pointed bits of gossip about me. I was known to be a bit of an asshole, though my work was well respected.
“I don’t know why I didn’t put the name together before. We’ve been in the same meetings, but you’re ‘the’ Henry Conroy? You wrote-” she started, then looked around for a moment. “You wrote ‘The Book of Gilded Secrets.’”
I felt my face flushed. I dropped her hand, then suddenly regretted showing such a reaction. Her cheeks seemed to redden as well. “Yes, well, ah, that was many years ago, decades actually,” I said, trying and failing to laugh it off.
The book she mentioned was mine, but I’d written it so long ago it seemed like another life. I was her age when it was published, a fact that flooded my veins with guilt at my lust for her.
She was looking up at me so intently, I felt unable to revert back to my usually unflappable self.
“I read it in high school. My friend found it at a used bookstore. We passed it around. Everyone got to keep it for a week, but when my turn came, I wouldn’t give it back,” she said, still whispering.
I swallowed a lump in my throat. I tried to exorcise the images that flooded my brain.
“Yes, well, that’s very complimentary, and a bit inappropriate. I mean, that’s a text I meant for adult eyes. Even more so than the usual fare,” I said, becoming more and more uncomfortable.
“Well, I was a very curious girl. I still am,” she replied, biting her bottom lip and playing with the thin gold necklace she wore.
The fire in me blossomed, and I almost felt swept up, like a puppet to my own lust.
“I see,” I said, forcing myself to grow as cold on the outside as I was hot within.
“No one has brought that book up to me in a very long time. It didn’t sell very well, and my other works were a bit more mainstream.”
“I know. I read them all, but I always came back to those Gilded Secrets. I always wanted more. Even now, it brings me back to those evenings reading it under the covers with a flashlight,” she sighed.
I felt myself suddenly forced to either flee or pounce on her. “Pardon me, I need some fresh air,” I said, before turning and making a run for it as quickly as was still respectable.
The roof of the building was only in use by the publishing company, though since it was December, no one else was up there. As I opened the old door, I shivered, but the cold air felt wonderfully bracing.
I looked out on Manhattan, a million lights, a million secrets. I let the cold penetrate my suit, my skin, cool the fire inside. After a few minutes, I heard the door open behind me.
For some reason, I expected Margot, but there was Fiona in her cranberry-colored high waisted slacks and her turtleneck the color of tea-stained paper. She shivered but walked towards the ledge, where I stood.
“You know I used to write in my diary hoping someone would steal it, like in your book,” she said with a laugh, her cheeks even redder from the chill. The wind blew her hair and made her shirt cling to her smallish breasts. I could see the peaks of her nipples hard under the material.
“I’m sure that sort of situation would be far less interesting in real life. In stories, we can have fun with something that would actually be quite uncomfortable in reality,” I said, over the wind.
Her eyes widened a little. “Oh, I’ve followed you out here and been actually completely inappropriate about your book,” she said, her eyes losing their bold confidence and falling to her feet. “I’m very sorry,” she added and turned, sprinting for the door.
I stood in the freezing air for a few more minutes, hoping to chill my boiling blood, but my ears burned, and my mind raced as I watched her go.
Ten minutes later, I finally went back inside, hoping to go back with a regained composure. She was waiting in the little hall in front of the door from the roof. She stood with her back against the wall, biting her lip.
“Is it true, though? Is there a hidden library, full of diaries and secrets?” she asked, a little breathlessly.
I considered her. Why was I fighting my desire? She was perfect. She was bright-eyed and full of the kind of curiosity I seemed to long for. Still, it was our workplace. I was twice her age. I gave her a tight-lipped smile. She was brilliant. She couldn’t think my silly fantasy book was real.
“That is a conversation for two people who don’t work together,” I said steadily, feeling my coolness return, my neutral face, my hopefully unreadable demeanor. She frowned and nodded.
I left the party without saying goodbye to anyone. The feeling that welled up in my heart was failure more than anything else.
At home, there was regret and guilt, and even, for a moment, I thought to pick up the pen, to write as I did in my youth. Instead, there was a pill and the sweet comfort of sleep.
Two weeks later, Margot found me in The Royalton, a hotel bar we frequented. It was always empty at four in the afternoon, which was why we liked it.
I ordered her a dirty gin Martini when I saw her walking in, and she smiled when it was put down in front of her right as she sat down. She took a sip and sighed deeply with pleasure. “I just had a lunch meeting with that Fiona girl.”
I stiffened. “Yes. We had a rather interesting chat at the Christmas party ,” I said, sipping my Scotch and trying to look neutral. Margot laughed.
“Yes, I saw some of that. She followed you around like a puppy all night. It was almost embarrassing to watch. She fawned over you. It reminded me of when I was at Columbia, cornering a professor. She’s completely under your spell, and you are oblivious,” she said with a laugh.
I felt my cheeks heat up. “I’m not oblivious. I simply act appropriately in my place of employment, especially when dealing with a twenty-something woman.”
Margot shook her head at that. “If I remember correctly, I was once a twenty-something, and you fuck my brains out,” she said with a raise of one eyebrow.
I shrugged. “Well, I was twenty-something too.”
She sipped her drink and smiled. “We were something,” she sighed.
“We are still something. Something all-together different, but just as, if not more, amazing,” I said, lifting my chin, catching our reflection in the mirror on the far wall. Two elegant, well respected, amazingly well dressed, titans of publishing.
“So we are. You can’t tell me you haven’t thought about it, though. Pinning that bespectacled little slut down to your desk and pulling off those ridiculous slacks she wears.”
I laughed. “I think about lots of things. It’s what I’m known for. I’m a veritable Thinker.”
She scoffed at that. “Well, she’s leaving. She let herself get snatched up by a hotter younger company. Good for her. She’ll do well. She’s too young to stay in one place. I told her just that. I told her she should be in Paris,” Margot said, her eyes studying mine for a reaction.
“Good for her, indeed,” I said, giving her only a tight-lipped smile. There was a moment of silence between us.
“She really would do anything for you. She said that very thing to me. Asked me to pass it on. She was very specific. ‘Anything’ she said.”
I sipped my whiskey again. We were in a very fancy bar, but my tastes were specific—Rye, with a few ice cubes. Occasionally a bit of water.
I mused that the power was quite intoxicating. Plus, the thought of her hunger, her insistence that she would do “anything.”
What did anything mean? Where were the lines? If I could have anything, what would I want? A slave? Some banal servant to fetch my toast and slippers? Some sex doll to use and discard? I laughed to myself. Margot frowned. She tapped one nail on her glass.
“Listen to me. I’m serious. I’m very interested in facilitating the desecration of this girl,” Margot said with a sudden intensity.
I eyed her, swirling my whiskey and ice. “Why not desecrate her yourself?”
Her jaw tightened. “Because that’s not what I want. I want to facilitate it. I want to see you do it. I want to see her girlish crush on you used to destroy her. I want to see her happy, bright shining smile break. I want to hear her beg for horrible things. I want to watch her get stripped naked, fucked, made to cry, broken. While I watch, perhaps with a cocktail and an amusing cheese plate.”
The bartender, a rather unflappable gentleman who had been pouring me glasses of rye for about twenty years, seemed impressed. He met my gaze with a wide-eyed look and then exiled himself to the other side of the bar.
Margot took a deep breath and continued at a lower volume. “There is something about her. Something about the way she looks at you, the way she loves that book of yours, the connection, it’s like-”
“Like you don’t know which of us you are jealous of?”
She rolled her eyes. “No. Incorrect. It’s not jealousy, it’s attraction. I’m very attracted to the whole thing. I’m attracted to her, certainly, and I suppose you, even if you are an old goat now, but my true attraction is to all of it, together. I keep thinking about it. I keep thinking about the way she looks at you. I keep playing with it in my head. Playing it out. Perfecting the scenario. Now I want to see it for real.”
I sat with that. It was a lovely thing to hear. It was complicated and messy and real. Margot saying it out loud was remarkably attractive.
“Like you and that professor, only you get to control-” I started, and she gave me a look so full of rage I stopped.
“Like exactly what I said, for reasons that are mine. You’re not the psychoanalyst you think you are. You may be the writer, but my stories are my own,” she said in a low controlled but very intense whisper.
I let things cool. I gave her a moment. She sipped her drink and plucked the olive off its pretty metal toothpick.
I took a breath and tried to speak calmly. “You know that I try not to-” I tried to find the right word. “I try not to date women who are so much younger than me anymore.”
She rolled her eyes again. “Yes, and I find your rules boring. When I was her age, I fucked men twice my age, older even. I knew what I was doing, and I relished the way they looked at me, the way they wanted me. I know you think you’re better than that these days. Maybe that’s part of it. Maybe I want to tempt you. I want to seduce you into doing something you think is bad. And I’m using her fresh face and tight little cunt to do it,” she said, seeming to enjoy her profanity.
I felt my mouth open and then close. I didn’t know where to start. I swallowed the rest of my whiskey in one gulp and nodded to the bartender for another.
“With water,” I added, knowing I needed to keep my wits about me.
“I’m getting ahead of myself. Listen. She’s a bright girl. She’s curious and hungry for adventure. I’ll lay this out for her. I’ll use your book, your whole fantasy. You tell me what you want to do to her. How you want-” she waited for the bartender to refill our drinks and walk away before finishing.
“You tell me your fantasy. How you want to fuck her. How you’d like to use her. Spank her, tie her down, beat her, I remember your proclivities. I remember all the delicious marks you left on me. Tell me your unbound predilections, your top-shelf fantasy of cruelty. I’ll pitch them to her. And my fee is that I get to be there. I get to watch you take that innocent young thing and watch you destroy her.”
“But you’ll explain that to her first?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.
She raised both of her eyebrows in reply. “Well, of course. I’m not a monster. She has to know everything, or how will we properly put her back together after?”
I sighed deeply. “Have you always been like this?” I asked, looking at my glass.
“We’ve both come a long way since I let you spank me, and I sat on your face that summer. Our tastes have been refined, and our depravities have widened. Tell me that you wouldn’t enjoy having me seduce her for you, negotiate with her for you, ready her for you, dress her in whatever twisted costume your perversions require, spread her legs open wide for you? Oh, I remember your little fetish for bare pussies. I can have her waxed and perfumed and brought to your tent, as they say.”
I coughed and looked around, my tie suddenly too tight. “I guess I’m not sure I understand what you are getting out of it.”
She smiled and cocked her head a bit. “That’s because, despite all of your literary aspirations, you are a simple man with simple desires. I, on the other hand, am a complicated woman with more labyrinthine tastes.”
I didn’t think that was true, but I didn’t disagree. “So what are our next steps? I give you a list of my desires, and you procure the girl formally?” I asked.
Margot smiled wolfishly. “Yes, make that your next actionable item. I’ll have a chat with the girl.”
The next night, I sat at my desk with a stack of expensive all-cotton laid paper and a fountain pen, intending to give my list the due respect it deserved.
What to write? I want her naked, except for thigh high socks? I want her waxed bare and bathed in lavender? I want her arms behind her back and her chin up and for her to call me “daddy” while I fucked her?
My desires, suddenly, felt very common. Margot’s plan was audacious and profoundly kinky. Would it due to spank and paw at this girl when she was presented to me?
I wondered if I was thinking about it the wrong way. My desires were not there to entertain the girl and her mistress. She was being prepared to serve me. I need only list my wants. How often would my primal desires be so overtly catered to? What does a man ask for when offered everything?
I started with her clothes, or lack thereof. I wanted to be specific. We would certainly purchase anything that she didn’t have. I opened my laptop and did a little browsing around, trying to go back to my dreams. In idle daydream, what sparked my hungers?
Somehow, when I started writing, it wasn’t a list, but a letter.
My dear Margot,
You may think me a simple man, but alas, my demands will be a bit more than a list of sexual positions. Though I certainly have my rote fetishes, if you are offering up this girl, then it will take more than just stripping her and putting her over my knee.
You offer me anything? I want this bright young thing’s imagination. After all, did you think I was merely attracted to a pretty face and a pair of exquisite thighs? I want her secrets. I want her shame and her fear and her desires.
I want pages from that diary she mentioned. I want a report on what she did when she read my book all those years ago, under the covers with flashlight and curious hands.
So, what I’ll need is for you to reconnoiter. You want me to destroy her, I’ll need to know where her weak points are. I’ll need to know her fortifications. I’ll need to know her defenses.
Give me secrets to use.
Charmed as always,
The next morning, I dropped the letter on her desk on my way to a meeting and felt a particular glee as I sipped my coffee. I let the electricity of infatuation fill me for the first time in a long time, unencumbered from the restraints I had hoisted upon myself.
The text message came just after lunch.
“I should not have underestimated you. My apologies. I’ll see what I can do,” wrote Margot.
Three days later, I received a dossier—a large manilla envelope with a handwritten note on top of it.
“She bites her lip when she is nervous. Pouts when she is ashamed. I must admit, when she blushes, I find it both hard to plan her destruction and even more difficult not to throw her on the floor and see if she is as wet as I imagine.”
I sat with that for a while, sipping coffee and adjusting my trousers.
“She is very quick-witted and very sweet. She wants to be good for you. She wants praise so desperately it is, frankly, as inspiring as it is pathetic. I still want you to give me a list of activities, though I understand they will be informed by the data I present to you. I hope to organize something on or around the 1st of next month. I think a hotel suite will be in order. We need room and privacy. Let me know if that sounds appropriate.”
In the folder were printed letters, some handwritten notes, what looked like photocopies of pages of a diary, photographs, and timelines. It felt like it was Christmas again. Data, delicious, illicit, and very private data. Freely given and for my eyes only.
I fingered the edge of a five by seven photographs of her. It was a full-body shot from the Christmas party, cheeks red from champagne. Eyes wide and happy, smiling, and luridly innocent looking.
The first page inside the folder was a printout.
“We met for coffee. She seemed very excited to see me. She told me about her new job. I pretended to be interested, and then I felt somewhat guilty for feeling that way. I had a list of questions. I had an itinerary. I had a plan, and it was methodical.”
“Still, I tried to be upfront. This was my pitch: I’ve seen how you look at Henry. You’ve told me how you feel about his book, how you’ve pined for him. Frankly, I find your crush on him intriguing. Henry and I were once something of an item. We played all kinds of kinky games. I thought perhaps we could make a game of you. Lately, he’s been a grump. He has given himself lots of rules in the last few years. I think if left to his own devices, he wouldn’t allow himself to enjoy such a wonderful woman such as yourself. He wouldn’t let himself follow his desire and his own crush on you. So I’ve asked him to do me a favor. I’ve asked him to do it for me. Is that strange? Is it strange that I’ve become a bit enamored with your crush on him and his fixation on you? Perhaps it is strange, but I’ve been known to enjoy stranger things.”
“She was taken aback. She asked a lot of questions. Her cheeks went very red. She asked if I was talking about some kind of ‘threesome,’ and then she got a bit offended when I laughed. I admit, I laughed a bit loud. You know how I can be. I apologized and soothed her. I said, it was, perhaps, a bit like that. It was difficult to explain. Hell, sometimes I’m not even sure what I’ve become obsessed about. (Yes, it has become a bit of an obsession.)”
“I think about her a lot. I think about you and her. Maybe, in a way, in my dreams, I am you, and she looks at me with those eyes. Sometimes though, I am here looking at someone with such adoration.”
There was a moment, as I read, that I wondered how much of the writing was for my seduction. I didn’t dwell, considering my desire to be seduced was probably more powerful than my power to know the truth.
“When it comes to sex, kink, what have you, her eyes are bigger than her mouth, so to speak. She is all desire with very little follow-through. She’s had dalliances, certainly. She got started far too young. She was obsessed with Lolita. She had crushes on every teacher she’s ever had. Always dated older boys and in college, a butch senior on her field hockey team. Catholic school, chaste, she told her friends she didn’t lose her virginity until college, but she was actually in high school. Early high school.”
I turned to a photo, a young teen with Fiona’s eyes, her lips. A tartan skirt and her hands behind her back. I turned that photo over quickly. The next photo was perhaps a printout of a phone selfie. Perhaps college Fiona? Full body, in nothing but a bra and boy-cut panties. One arm behind her back and the other partially covering her belly, hand over her crotch, toes turned in.
“All those curves you enjoy so much, she is mortified by. She longed to be a waif for most of her life. She tried to starve herself when she was younger. It’s only now that she is starting to become comfortable with her curves. She said the way you wrote about women helped. She said the way your eyes linger on her helped. I had to stop from rolling my eyes when she talks about you sometimes.”
I looked at the picture again, her wide hips, her round ass, her thick thighs. I would almost be content with just the photos. But then I saw what came next.
A photocopy of flowery handwriting from a lined notebook.
“Sip from me like I am a fountain. Warm your hands as if I were a fire. Hold me like a stone in the palm of your hand. Delight in me, as if I were a cool wind. Hold me close and hold me down. Mark me as your own. Send me away aching for you and aching from you.”
“She wrote that in high school,” said Margot’s handwriting just under the little poem.
“A bit juvenile, but you have to appreciate the passion, non?”
I thought about that for a bit, then noticed there was a manilla envelope in the folder. I turned the envelope upside down, and a small, yellowed, rather battered softcover novel dropped onto my desk.
There is a complex mixture of emotions when encountering a copy of your own book. Pride, guilt for feeling pride, some smattering of embarrassment. Still, the swell of ego overwhelmed the rest. It was my first novel and perhaps, in my mind and in Fiona’s, my best work.
The cover was the original art, a dimly lit library of sorts. Perhaps the private library in some mansion somewhere. I think I sent the publisher a picture of the East Room in the Morgan Library as a reference. In a chair, by a fireplace, sat a man with a book open in front of his face. Curled at his feet was a nude woman.
The cover still worked. It looked dated and a bit more pulp novel than I felt my text deserved, but it worked. It was appropriately lurid.
I paged through the book and saw passages outlined. I saw words circled—little notes in the margins. Pages dogeared, and even one or two ripped out.
It was, perhaps, the idea of what I wanted one of my books to look like. Worn out from being read over and over again. Poured over and well used. A wave of emotion passed over me that surprised me. A tightness in my chest and a swell of vulnerability that brought me nearly to tears.
I put all of this aside and took out another swath of paper. There was something luxurious about writing these things out longhand. I imagined Fiona pouring over the correspondences, seeing the swish of my practiced handwriting.
“I am interested, as you know, in control. Taking what information I have so far, I think I will need control over many aspects of the girl. If we propose to do this on the first, I have twenty days. That’s not much time. She will need to be primed.”
Then, I wrote out my plan, my schedule, my particulars, my fantasy.
It was Friday, and we had all left work early. It was not even five, and we had to room all weekend.
It was a massive suite, with a sprawling bedroom that held a king-sized bed, a couch, a loveseat, and a large desk. The window looked out on Central Park. The sun was setting over the city, and the lights were coming on everywhere.
The place was stylish if a bit modern for my taste. A steel-gray carpet, angular dark wood furniture, art deco touches all over. A bowl of fruit on the table and next to it some things Margot had brought. There was a bottle of Veuve Clicquot chilling in a bucket of ice, a bottle of Macallan 25, and a pretty glass pitcher of water. There was the dossier of one Fiona Byrne with one photo peeking out of the folder. The one from college, a selfie in lingerie.
Margot sat on the couch, eyeing me. She had her pad and her pen ready, and I was reminded of being in the office, when we were deep in some project, and our egos were put aside, and we were gelling together, finishing each other’s sentences.
“Such a good teacher you are turning out to be,” I said with a grin. “So much better than the debacle when you tried your hand at being a professor at Barnard,” I added. She rolled her eyes.
There was a moment of silence, and then I heard a noise from the bathroom. Margot smiled. “She texted me. She’s on her way. Do you know how this will go?”
I raised an eyebrow. “So little confidence in me? Yes, I’ve planned things out quite thoroughly. Follow my lead,” I said with a wink. She looked dubious, but said nothing.
Did I know how it was going to go?
There was a very palpable energy in the air. The thought of what was going to happen. All the thought that had gone into everything, the correspondences, the waiting, the building, the anticipation.
I found myself wanting to kiss Margot, which was not something I had thought about in some time. She had a habit of biting my lip a little too hard. I filed that thought away and focused on the task at hand.
I set about moving the furniture around a bit. I turned the couch and the loveseat around so that they faced the windows. They were back a bit so that there was a space between the seating area and the window. In that space, I put an ottoman. This would be the stage of sorts.
I moved the coffee table next to the loveseat, where I sat, and put my files and props there. I had a small suitcase as well as my briefcase as well as a large shopping bag from Bergdorf Goodman, full of clothes.
I set up my files, my notes, my plan. I saw Margot from the corner of my eye. She raised an eyebrow when I took Fiona’s little diary out and laid it on top of everything else. There were a dozen or so Post-it notes sticking out of the book. I gave her a smile over my shoulder.
She looked down at her phone suddenly and then back up at me. “She’s in the elevator.”
Then there was the quiet before the storm. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I fiddled with my phone, which I had connected to the speakers in the room as the helpful little directions on the desk suggested. Calming classical music drifted in—Dvorák’s Serenade for Winds.
When the knock came, I looked to Margot, and she dutifully got up, surprisingly without the slightest roll of the eye.
And there was our girl, in a summer dress of pale yellow.
I said nothing. I said nothing and enjoyed the sight of my Fiona being brought to me by Margot. What a luxury.
Margot sat on the couch, and Fiona stood in front of us, her hands behind her back, nervous energy emanating from her body, visible in fidgeting a look on her face that teetered between laughter and fear.
I sat very calmly. There was a very particular kind of calm that came over me when I was given control in that manner. I enjoyed it. It filled my very veins. I sat in that feeling and reveled for a moment. Then, I spoke.
“I’m afraid I wasn’t completely forthcoming with you,” I said, seriously. I paused then, as both women hung on my words.
I learned to my side and took the folder from my makeshift desk.
“You asked once if my book was true. You wondered if there were those out there who might steal a little girl’s diary. I think, like most works of fiction, it was neither true nor a lie, but a metaphor. The kind of girls I’m interested in, the kind of diaries I’m interested in would always be given, never stolen. What’s the pleasure in that?”
Fiona’s eyes were on the folder, and she swallowed as her eyes seemed to grow bigger.
“It’s that delicate balance that I find delicious,” I said as I opened the folder and displayed some of the contents that Margot had gotten for me.
I picked up one of the printed selfies. I smiled as I looked at it and then back at her, seeing the red rise up in her cheeks, then I put it down and picked up the diary. The post-it notes were visible, letting her know I had read it all, marked up my favorite passages.
“Well, after so much preparation and work up, why don’t we just begin?” I said, giving them both a wide smile. I stood and picked up the little diary, opening it to my favorite passage, the one I had come back to over and over again.
“The first is just a little dream that caught my fancy. Let’s call it less of a scene and more of an amuse-bouche. Just something I thought it might be nice to see.”
I cleared my throat and her diary pages in one hand, turning a page dramatically.
“Fiona, would you be so kind as to sit on that ottoman there?” I said, without looking up at her. I continued to page through her diary, making sure she saw what I was doing.
When I looked up, Margot was on the couch, sipping champagne, and Fiona was sitting nervously on the ottoman, the park and the setting sun behind her. I walked over and handed her the diary, her diary. She looked down at the page and her eyes widened.
“Now, why don’t you read for us,” I said, joining Margot on the couch.