My life had been turned upside down. Two ghosts down and one to go, but there was no sign of Marcy yet. Plus I’d hardly spoken to Mr. McIntyre that whole week.
So I waited. I’d made his calls and typed his letters and even stood inches from him and poured his coffee. It was sort of frightening how he went right back to where was before he’d asked for my diary and the whole journey had started.
Some part of me wondered if I’d dreamt up the whole thing. That was until Friday around a half past four when the little buzzer on the intercom went off.
“Abby, can I see you in here for a moment,” his staticky voice growled.
Then there I was standing in front of his desk with my hands behind my back waiting.
He watched me for a good five minutes. He was sitting back in his big leather chair and nursing a sweating glass of ice water. When he stood up, I jumped a little. When he came towards me, my body tightened.
He looked down at me and studied me. He walked around me with a sort of half smile, his eyes narrowing as he examined my reactions.
“Abigail, would you do something for me?” he said, towering over me.
“Absolutely, Mr. McIntyre, anything” I reply, trying to keep my voice steady.
“Anything?” he asked, leaning down and trying to force me to meet his gaze. I still couldn’t, I could only talk looking at my feet.
My voice broke as I said, “Yes, sir.”
He let the reply settle as he watched me. His eyes were unwavering, and his square jaw didn’t show a touch of a smile or frown or any other expression I could read. After a moment or two of silence, he looked around the room.
“I’m glad you were able to leave when you felt uncomfortable, that is important, but I’m afraid that if you feel you can’t handle things this weekend, we may be at an impasse. If you feel you can’t stay, we will forgo any further ‘out of the office’ work and resume our former working relationship. I think you understand that, don’t you?” he asked in a calm voice that made me cringe with guilt.
“I do, sir. I’m sorry about last time, I think I’m a little more ready, sir,” I said, starting strong, but ending in a mumble.
He leaned over and touched my chin, bringing my eyes to meet him.
“Abby, I’m a man who enjoys a wide variety of things. I think you’ve become privy to that. There is one thing, specifically, that I don’t enjoy. Do you know what that is?”
My body was frozen as I looked into the startling steel gray of his eyes.
“Failure?” I squeaked.
“Not at all. Failure means you were attempting something beyond your ability. I reward that, in my personal life and often in my professional life. No, not failure. I don’t like apologies. They are useless. Do you think I don’t know you’re sorry by the way you are flushed with guilt and shame? Don’t you think Chase and Trudy have told me how sorry you are?” he said with the same low even-tempered tone.
I felt my eyes hot and wet.
“Words are easy, Abigail,” he said, standing straight up and taking a step back.
“It’s easy to say ‘sorry’ just like it’s easy to say ‘anything.’ This weekend, if it is convenient for you, I’d like you to come back up to my country house. The same place you went last time. I’d like you to go there, and I’d like to see if you are ready to live up to your promises,” he said walking back to his desk and picking up an envelope.
“Do you think you can do that?” he asked, looking back at me.
I took time to reply. There was a part of me, a very strong part deep inside, that wanted to answer him honestly. I didn’t want to fail again and if that meant not trying again, then that is what I’d do.
I thought of all the nights full of dreams of him. I thought of the joy I got from doing all the little things that made his day easier and how much more the joy would be in bringing him even more pleasure, whatever pleasure he wanted to take from me. I thought of Chase and Trudy and Marcy and how I wanted to make them proud.
“I will do it, sir. Anything.”
“We would like to have you for the whole weekend. Come out on Saturday morning, we’ll have a nice brunch, then Marcy would like to have a word with you. On Sunday you and I can finally sit down and chat.”
I imagine my face when white. I didn’t even know how to process what he said.
He dismissed me, and I went back to my desk, to stew in anxiety and wetness while I typed up the last of his letters.
I didn’t see Mr. McIntyre again until he was leaving. He stopped by my desk and put something on top of my papers, before giving me a smile and leaving.
It was a crisp white envelope with my name in his bold handwriting. Abigail. I hadn’t seen my name in his hand much, and it felt extraordinary.
In the envelope were some train tickets, some directions, and some instructions. There was a pang in my heart as I looked at the typed instructions and wondered who typed them for him. The thought of someone else taking dictation made me furious and the image of him sitting at a typewriter himself filled me with confusion.
The next morning I woke up at seven and was on my way by nine.
I didn’t travel much. Certainly not alone. I’d gone on trips to Florida with family, summers in Maine, a cruise once. Finding my way to Penn Station and looking at the big board to see what gate my train left from would have probably felt overwhelming under normal circumstances, but thinking about what was awaiting me when I got to my destination trumped any other fear.
As the city blurred across the window, I looked down at my diary again. What had been a secret place was now a tool of communication. Was I supposed to continue writing my dreams and my fantasies and my day to day thoughts, but what it had become was a way to broadcast those wants to Mr. McIntyre. Well, Mr. McIntyre and anyone else he let read my little book.
At some point, that idea became something thrilling. As I took that long train ride, I contemplated that. I thought about Chase and his charm. I thought about Trudy and her little games. Most of all I thought about Marcy. Marcy who had been the first to touch me. Marcy who I’d seen be so strong and yet so overpowered by Mr. McIntyre. She more than anyone made my head swirl with confusion.
When I got to the house, Chase and Trudy were out in front playing croquet. They both wore white, Chase in shorts, Trudy in a tennis skirt, both wearing polo shirts. Trudy wore a floppy hat.
They waved at me as the taxi dropped me off and I awkwardly dragged my overnight bag over to them.
Trudy was smiling brightly and ran over to hug me. Her whole demeanor seemed to have changed towards me since our tea, and I flushed remembering that strange afternoon.
Chase hugged me as well, his smile sweet and warm. He kissed me on the forehead and took my bag from me.
We walked to the house, and I tried to keep my heart from racing too much. I swooned so hard I almost tipped over, feeling overcome by some new emotion. I felt a part of something. I felt like a part of their group. I knew all of them so intimately, and they knew me too. The idea made me dizzy.
I was lead to a small bedroom on the second floor, where I dropped off my bags.
“You can wash up and relax for a minute. Brunch will be served soon in the main dining room,” Chase said, dropping my bag on the bed.
“Yeah, it’s going to be some spread, then, from what I understand, you’ll be for dessert!” Trudy said with a laugh, skipping out the room and leaving me to be alone with my anxiety.
It was a spread indeed. After getting lost in the hallways for a few minutes, I found my way to the main dining room. There was a huge table, one that could sit perhaps twenty people, with all sorts of chafing dishes full of every imaginable breakfast food.
“Ah, Abigail! Join us. It’s British style, so we serve ourselves,” Mr. McIntyre explained.
It was the first time I had ever seen him in anything other than a suit. I nearly tripped and fell over. He wore a beautiful navy blue sweater with a blue and white striped Oxford shirt under it. His slacks were brown herringbone tweed, and his boots were well worn brown work boots.
I don’t know why, but Mr. McIntyre in boots almost made me have an orgasm on the spot.
At the end of the table were five seats and place settings. Trudy and Chase were already eating, Marcy was nowhere to be seen.
Mr. McIntyre smiled brightly, taking a plate for himself and handing me one.
“All of my favorites, scrambled eggs with goat cheese, french toast, sausages, bacon, mushrooms, and tomatoes,” he said, filling his plate.
“Jake loves huge breakfasts. He summered in Scotland as a wee lad,” Chase said from the other side of the long table.
Mr. McIntyre laughed, he actually laughed. It was a real laugh too, not the tight-lipped chuckles he let out hen clients made rude jokes.
I felt like Alice on the other side of the mirror. Still as different as this Mc. McIntyre was, there was still all the power and confidence and charm. Perhaps even more.
I got french toast with whipped cream and strawberries and a few pieces of bacon and sat down with everyone else.
“Where’s Marcy?” I asked, feeling so fancy in the massive room with the elegant silver cutlery.
Trudy, who had nothing but whipped cream and berries on her plate, rolled her eyes.
“Marcia likes to ride in the mornings,” she said in a faux British accent.
We ate, Mr. McIntyre read the Sunday Times, Chase and Trudy and I chatted. We filled ourselves to bursting on delicious food, and Chase introduced us to Mimosas, which were Champagne and orange juice of all things.
Eventually, Marcy came in, wearing her riding gear, with her hair in a French braid. She looked beautiful, like a princess, but a real-life daughter of a king you might see on a news report, not a Disney princess.
She made herself a simple plate and sat with us, picking on bacon and eggs and toast.
“I’m glad you could join us, Abigail,” she said with a look in her eye I couldn’t place.
She made me nervous, but then again most things did. I was feeling surprisingly calm and comfortable with everyone, and Marcy came in and shook things up.
Mr. McIntyre took the lull in conversation to raise his glass.
“To our guest for the weekend, Ms. Abigail Henderson,” he said with a dashing smile.
I blushed as everyone raised their glasses and repeated: “to Abigail!”
We all sipped the mimosas as Mr. McIntyre eyed me.
“I have heard two wonderful tales of your night out with Chase and your tea party with Trudy,” he explained, pealing a small tangerine.
“I asked them both to plan a lovely date to get to know you. I’m happy that you got on so well with them. One of the reasons I brought you here this evening was to give Marcy the same opportunity. From what I understand she has some rather interesting plans,” he mused.
My stomach dropped. I knew he was behind the two other dates, but to hear him say it made my head spin. To know they told him about the dates. The things she did with both of them. I suddenly forgot how to sit still. I didn’t know what to do with my hands.
He looked down at me, still smiling.
“Does that sound okay to you, Abby? To have a Saturday with Marcy?” He asked.
“Yes. I told you, Mr. McIntyre, I’d do anything,” I said with as much courage as I could muster.
One at a time I saw Trudy, Chase, Mr. McIntyre, and finally Marcy, smile at me.
“You heard her, anything,” Mr. McIntyre said, sitting back down and getting back to his tangerine.
Marcy Peterson looked at me like I was a bug under a magnifying glass. She paced around the table, with her hands folded behind her back, and just studied me. I squirmed and bit my lip though I tried to be brave.
“Anything I want?” She said, to no one in particular.
Mr. McIntyre sat with his fingers in a little steeple in front of his mouth. He let out a thoughtful sigh.
She glared at him, but after a moment, smiled.
“I think, for the sake of both memorial and reciprocity, I would like to recreate our first date, Jake. Do you remember? It was a while ago,” she said with syrup in her voice.
Mr. McIntyre’s eyes narrowed.
“I remember that evening in great detail, Marcia,” he said with a hard time.
She looked at him with some bit of shock, I wondered if perhaps he only used her full name when he was angry.
“I was younger than her. What was I, nineteen? I was very eager. I begged for it. You spent the summer pushing me away and laughing at my seductions, but eventually, you gave in. Then you tied me to a tree and beat me, then laid me on the floor and fucked me,” she said, her voice staying hard and cruel but there was something else in her eyes.
Mr. McIntyre put his hand on the table and tightened his jaw.
“So that’s what I want. I want to beat her. I want to beat her and then I want to fuck her. I want to fuck her before you do,” she clarified with a bitch smile and icy eyes.
Mr. McIntyre nodded slowly, showing that he understood.
“Interesting,” he commented and smiled.
Mr. McIntyre looked around the room until his eyes landed on me.
“Selecting the person who ‘takes’ one’s virginity is one of those most pivotal decisions in a young woman’s life, or so society has us think. Their sexual history going forward will always be compared to that first time. I think it would be a lovely thing to be the one to pluck that particular flower,” he said, far more dreamy than I’d heard him
“Assigning the person to do it-” he contemplated.
“Has a complex beauty all its own.”
Marcy’s pout turned into a victorious smile.
I was baffled. I looked to the others for some clue what they meant, but everyone seemed to me nodding and congratulating Marcy and Mr. McIntyre on a wonderful plan.
I’d seen Marcy naked. She was a woman. I didn’t understand what she was proposing. There was a part of me, a part I had insisted didn’t exist, that mourned the idea of Mr. McIntyre being the first. The whole time the idea seemed unattainable. Still that day there was also an inevitability that had been building.
I offered him anything. Part of that anything was obviously my body. As my brain processed the idea an almost surprising wave of lust came over me. That he was deciding the fate of my virginity. The fact that it wasn’t something he felt he needed to do himself. Fucking me by proxy.
“Alright,” I said calmly.
Marcy smiled, Mr. McIntyre nodded.
Mr. McIntyre looked at Trudy and Chase, who both nodded. It was like I was on trial and the judge and the jury were speaking like I wasn’t there.
“Lovely. Well, before we get to fucking her, there will be the crucible. Similar to the one Jake put me through so long ago,” Marcy explained.
She walked over to me and leaned down, looking me in the eye.
“Look at me. No really look at me,” she demanded.
I tried as best I could.
“Do you know what a crucible is?”
“Tell me what it means.”
“It’s a-it’s a test of courage and strength.”
Marcy smiled and rubbed her thumb against my cheek.
“That is an excellent description. That’s what you are going to go through here. A test of courage and strength. If you make it through that, then I get to take your little cherry. And what’s at the end?”
It was stupid, but her little praise made me swell with pride. It was like a test in class, and I was excited to know the answers.
“That’s right. And I’m sure he will have a crucible all his own, don’t you agree?”
“And how does that make you feel?”
“Scared and excited.”
And wet and shaky, like I wanted to cry.
Marcy nodded and smiled a complicated world-weary smile.
“Well before you get to that, you have to get through me. I may not be six feet tall, but I have my own ways that seem to work well for breaking someone.”
I looked her in her cool blue eyes and tried to stay strong. She was intimidating, but the more I knew here, the more I saw there were pieces of her like me. A woman, in her twenties, who was also in love with Mr. McIntyre. It somehow made her more human and more frightening.
“I want to be good for you, Ms. Peterson.”
When Marcy looked back at me, there was a smile on her lips and a fire in her eyes.
“That’s a good start.”
She looked over my shoulder, and I turned to see Chase and Trudy walk up to us.
“Prepare her and then take her to the dungeon,” Marcy said with a grin.