I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know what I was wearing. I remember a flash of white polka dots on a sea of navy blue. A little pillbox hat. My face got flushed if I thought about Ms. Peterson pulling up the stockings that clipped to the garters under my dress. Every thought in my head made me blush. Every memory of the past few hours and every expectation about what was to come in the future exhilarated and terrified me.
We walked down the street, and she hailed a taxi, which was something I was never able to do. People always seemed to walk in front of me and take mine, but Marcy didn’t seem to have any trouble at all. She told the driver were going to the train station. I sat, still wet under my dress and frilly underwear. I wanted to stop being wet desperately, but thoughts were attacking me like Ms. Peterson’s fingers and having almost the same effect.
I followed behind her, the world a blur of men in suits and pretty women. She bought tickets. She bought magazines and cigarettes. I shook my head to coffee after she asked me the third time. She had a smile as she looked at my hazy confusion like she’d just won a bet.
On the train she sat in front of me, legs crossed and reading the French Vogue. She smoked, she radiated sexiness and power. I wanted to radiate that. Apparently, all I radiated was a signal that I was obedient.
As I watched the city fade into trees and water, I realized I still didn’t know where we were going. Some of the landscape seemed familiar, but I was not very well traveled. As the stops shifted from odd Indian names to things that ended in Hampton I started to realize precisely how fancy the place I was going was. Then it was more people, more following Ms. Peterson into crowds. Then a shiny black car waiting for us. Tinted windows and a quiet ride.
We arrived at the most unlikely of places; a stable. I followed Ms. Peterson in, trying to walk in heels I was already clumsy in the hay and grass. Ms. Peterson met a young woman who was my age with very large pouting lips, and curly copper hair pulled back in a ponytail. The two exchanged a few words, and the girl’s eyes narrowed on me.
She walked over to me and looked me up and down. She had pinkish white skin that was covered in freckles. She seemed to be continually pouting and frowning and bratty. She said nothing but started walking giving me a nod that said to follow her. We walked through this strange world of horses, which I’d never really been up close to but seem almost alarmingly large and powerful. I almost couldn’t look at the rippling muscles of the animals because they appeared so nakedly masculine.
We came to a vast wall that looked like an outdoor theater, but as we entered, I realized it was some kind of track. I wondered if it was a horse race, but it seemed the wrong size. We walked past men in white suits and women in elaborate dresses with huge hats. These people were rich and probably famous. I hadn’t read enough of the gossip column to really know who was who. We walked and walked and then there he was sitting in a booth wearing a suit I had never seen before and sunglasses of all things.
Mr. McIntyre was wearing a blue striped seersucker suit. He looked like a movie star. To his right was a younger man in a white suit who was very thin and had sharp almost feminine features. The younger man’s blond hair was combed back dramatically, and he wore a bright periwinkle ascot. The girl led me to their booth, and the two men stood up to greet me, which made my face flush. Looking up at Mr. McIntyre, who towered over me I had to squint in the sunlight.
“Abigail, I’m glad you made it.” he took my hand and held my arm out so he could look at my dress.
I squirmed as he looked me up and down. He was touching me. He was looking at me. He was showing me off. I looked down. I wanted to crawl out of the spotlight. Then as sudden as I thought that the vision of Marcy on top of me popped into my head for some reason and my knees almost buckled.
“Marcy did a lovely job,” he said looking at the man next to him who gave a begrudging shrug of approval.
“Abigail, this is Chase Llewellyn,” the fair-haired man smiled noncommittally and then took a pair of opera glasses from his pocket and looked at the field.
“And of course you’ve met Gertrude.” Mr. McIntyre said, and as he moved towards her the pout melted a bit, and her eyes got larger.
“Say hello, Trudy.”
Her snotty facade gone, the girl’s green eyes sparkled above her high freckled cheeks.
“Hello, Trudy,” Gertrude said sarcastically.
I smiled. I tried to smile politely, but it may have come out as a little too happy at her change in attitude. I realized that Mr. McIntyre had the same sway over her. It was strange to think of that. I watched their body language, how she teetered next to him, wanting to be at his side, but knowing her place at the moment.
“I-I’m going to get a pop. Would you care for one, Abigail?” she offered, her cheeks reddening at the forced kindness. Mr. McIntyre smiled and put his hand on her shoulder. This caused her body to tense.
“Oh, yes. Thank you. A Coca-Cola, please,” I said politely.
She walked off, her eyes on mine communicating something, maybe ownership?
“Have a seat Abigail.” Mr. McIntyre motioned to a chair beside him.
I sat down, and I remembered Alice in Wonderland suddenly because that’s what I felt like. Looking out at the field I realized it wasn’t a race but some sort of jumping and riding competition.
“Dressage,” said Chase, pronouncing the word with a certain French flair.
“Pardon?” I said, wondering if he was telling me something or asking me something.
“Dressage; horse ballet. It’s expensive to learn, insufferably boring to watch and taxing on the animals. We’re all keen on it,” his dry sarcasm hanging in the air coldly.
“Marcy’s been doing it since she was a girl,” said Gertrude, suddenly startling me. She handed me a sweating bottle of Coke and her eyes were somewhat less aggressive. She looked at the seats, and I realized I’d taken hers. She shrugged and sat down next to me.
Just then out on the field I saw her. Marcy Peterson in gray jodhpurs and a crisp white shirt with a black hunting coat. Her little hat and her tall black boot and a long whip. There was something about it that was so formal, so neat and tidy, so imposing. I wanted to see it up close, examine all the details of it. I wondered what it felt like to wear those tall, heavy boots and to straddle a horse like that. Looking to my left, I saw similar questions in Gertrude’s eyes.
“Have you ever done it?” I asked her.
Gertrude smiled. “Nope. But I tried the outfit on. The boots are a pain, but you feel wonderfully – constricted.” she give me a look then that made me bite my lip.
And so we all watched. Ladies sitting high on their saddles, rode their horses around, making them bow and dance and do all sorts of poses both graceful and unnatural. The first few minutes were exciting as Gertrude explained the scoring to me. Then we got to see Marcy go. She got a nine, which from what I was told means “very good.” After that, things got a bit boring. I turned to see Gertrude nodding off. Chase took out a little book and was silently reading. Only Mr. McIntyre watched from under his dark sunglasses. I was sort of glad I couldn’t see his steely blue eyes because I wouldn’t be able to relax at all if I could.
Then it was over. Polite clapping, someone won something. I’d stop being able to follow it as my eyes got heavy in the sunlight and boredom. Then we were up with the milling crowd, making our way out. At some point, Mr. McIntyre left our group, and I was ushered by Chase and Gertrude to the car I’d been driven in earlier. Then we
Another long drive. Chase was buried in his book. I think I saw Oscar Wilde on the cover. Gertrude was pouting and watching me like a cat watches a canary.
“So you’re Jake’s secretary,” she said flatly.
“Y- yes. I’ve been working for Mr. McIntyre for a while now.” as I said his name the two of them looked at each other and smirked.
We arrived at a huge house, and I followed the two through a substantial wrought iron gate up a cobblestone path to the front door where a butler met us. If I was Alice in Wonderland before now, I was little orphan Annie wide-eyed at the lavish place.
We came to a large drawing room, complete with fainting couches and a fireplace. Books lined the walls, and there was a giant globe in one corner. Mr. McIntyre was there, standing next to Marcy. It felt so strange to see the two of them. I can’t remember ever seeing them together before, but there they were. He towered over her as they spoke, just out of earshot.
My hands felt cold. I wondered what they were talking about. Marcy’s keen eyes and confident, sarcastic grin were gone. She looked down when he spoke to her, just like I did.
Mr. McIntyre didn’t look pleased, he was asking her a series of questions, and she was answering with meek yeses and noes. She looked so much younger like this, with her riding uniform and her hair pulled back. She fidgeted under his gaze and fingered her riding crop.
As I watched, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Chase, smiling at me.
“Jake told me that you were here to record the proceedings of our little meeting. I know you are used to a typewriter, but I couldn’t carry one all the way out here so just use this.” he handed me a five by seven black moleskin notebook and a heavy, expensive looking silver pen.
“What am I supposed to write?”
Chase moved in and whispered conspiratorially.
“Well, ‘Mr. McIntyre’ is going to -” he searched for the words “beat Marcy. Then who knows? He’ll probably fuck her” he smiled “and possibly me too.”
My eyes grew wide. I stopped breathing. Was he kidding? I was young and inexperienced and innocent. He was probably playing a joke on me. A sharp crack brought my attention back to Mr. McIntyre. He’d taken Marcy’s dressage whip and was flexing it in his large hands and testing it. He seemed unimpressed and instead picked up a thicker crop. Her eyes were saucers as he gave the thing a practice smack against his hand.
Chase continued. “You should start now. I think Jake is about to do something interesting with Marcy’s riding crop. Just write everything down as you see it as if you were recalling a dream in your diary.”
I blushed as I opened the book. He knew. This stranger knew. All of them knew my every secret. As I looked up, I saw Mr. McIntyre move in on Marcy. She backed up against the wall, and he was on her. I gasped and covered my mouth. I knew I should be quiet. They didn’t notice me. He was pressed against her, and she squirmed. My legs closed tightly. I felt the weight of Chase sitting next to me on the couch. I saw Gertrude seated on a chair watching Marcy and Mr. McIntyre the same was I was.
My hands shook as I opened the notebook. I put pen to paper as I watched and wrote down every dirty detail.