Archive for January, 2012
“Dinner. One time. You can nap later.”
Tingles cascaded down the back of her neck. She didn’t know him. She felt herself stepping back into the trap of her own self-doubt. She clinched her teeth. “Stop Thinking,” she screamed inside her own head.
“Can you give me a few minutes?”
“Yes. How about thirty? I’ll come back for you.”
She made sure he was back inside of his car and driving down the street before running back inside the house and doing a gleeful jump.
“A date! Going on a date in that car!” She yelled.
She dragged her suitcase up the stairs. It sprung open and littered the staircase with her underwear. She grabbed a slinky sundress from college and hurried into the first bathroom she could find. She rinsed her hair with lavender oil and scrunched it at the roots before blow-drying the ends. She applied bronzer on her cheekbones and went with a smoky oyster eye shadow. She decided against lipstick and went with a heavy clear gloss. She applied a dash of perfume oil behind each ear and looped a long gold feathery necklace around her neck.
The dress fit very well, considering it was one size smaller than what she normally wore. She found the full-length mirror in the master bedroom and looked at herself while stepping into purple sling backs. She looked casually sultry, like a supermodel when she had the flu. She found her beaded coin purse wadded up in the side pocket of her suitcase and shoved all the cash she had inside. She thought he could after all, turn out to be a lunatic and she may need to find a way home.
He was standing on the front steps when she stepped outside.
“You look lovely,” he said, opening the car door for her.
“Thanks. Let me just lock up.” She had no idea where the keys were. “I’ll be right back!” She rushed into Emmanuel’s office and turned on the light. Nothing had changed since the first time he had brought her there. Luckily for her, in the lava bowl sitting on top of the desk, were the keys.
She was stunned to see him. He wore a tan summer suit with a cream colored tie and gave her a thin-lipped smile as he approached the front steps.
“Hi,” she said, remembering she had just awoke from a nap and had no clue as to what she looked like for the second encounter with him.
“Thanks for letting me know I was at the wrong house.”
“Yes,” she said, but didn’t know why.
“I’m glad I was able to find you,” he said, showing off his large white teeth.
He found her. How did he find her? Who was he?
“You said you have something of mine?”
“Oh yes,” he said, reaching into his pocket. He pulled out her wallet.
“You found this?” She was amazed and relieved he had not come here to murder her.
“That’s how you knew where I lived,” she said laughing.
“Thank you so much,” she said, reaching for it. He took one step back.
“Have dinner with me.”
“This again, huh?”
“I’m a little busy. I was just in the middle of—”
“How did you know?”
He brought a single cool finger to her cheek and traced what she knew was a sleep line from the lawn chair. Mortified, she brought his hand down. His finger gripped hers.
Her phone rang again. UNKNOWN popped up on the screen in blocky letters. She thought for sure it would’ve been her mother calling back to apologize. She shrugged and answered.
“Is this Ala?”
“I’m glad you picked up. Look outside the window,” a man’s voice, crisp in confidence, said.
“Who is this?”
She glanced outside. There was no one in front of the house. She stepped out of the screen door and looked down the block. There was a very sleek black car parked in front of her parent’s house. The hood was so smooth and long with little lights peaking up like alien eyes.
“I have something of yours.”
She could not take her eyes off the car. It made her insides vibrate.
“I’ll show you. Come outside.”
“You’re at the wrong place. I’m down the street. I’ll wave.”
“Alright.” She watched the car purr down her street and flung her arm up in the air, waving rigorously. As the car stopped and parked, she realized what an idiot she was being. She had no idea who this was, and was directing him to where she was. The car door opened without a sound and out slipped the gentleman from the bar at the racetrack.
Anger starting to seep through her, making her face warm as she felt beads of cold sweat gather across her back. Strange sexual habits. Who was her mother to say anything about strange sexual habits? Who was she to insinuate that Emmanuel was a creep when there was sexual paraphernalia strewn about the house?
“Mother, I already told you once, he isn’t here. If you’re saying I’m lying, then I don’t really want to talk to you right now.”
“Fine. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.” She heard a click and the line went dead.
Ala stood there, in shock, watching the leaves on the Magnolia plants, no doubt imported, flap away in the wind.
To have one of the most bizarre conversations with your mother, that you know you’ll ever have, is a strange experience.
Strange sexual habits. What does that mean? Her mother had lived her entire life and seemed to only now explore any kind of varietal sex. Emmanuel had traveled everywhere, and other countries had different ideas about what normal sex was. She was sure her mother was overreacting. Her parents would be much happier with her out of the house for the summer. She wanted to call Gertrude, but decided that she didn’t want to share her plans just yet. She liked that this decision was her own and didn’t feel like explaining, or hearing opinions, just yet.
She gazed at the quivering water in the in-ground pool and thought about going skinny dipping. The sun seemed very bright at the time and, while there were very tall shrubs surrounding the yard, she decided against it. Skinny dipping was to be done in the dark. This was, without a doubt, the greatest job she had ever had. Why she hadn’t considered assisting the rich before, was baffling. She curled up sideways in the crook of the chair and drifted off for a short nap.
She awoke upon hearing her cell phone ringing from inside of the house. She jumped up and hurried inside. Her bag was by the front door, along with her luggage she had forgotten about unpacking. She answered.
“Ala, where are you?” It was her mother. While Ala was pretending to be wealthy, she had forgotten to call and tell her parents that she had moved out while they were gone.
“Oh, hi. I, I couldn’t find you or dad this morning and had to move quickly.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I took a job for the summer.”
“Really? That’s wonderful. Where?”
“I’m housesitting actually for Emmanuel.”
“Emmanuel! I had no idea you had met.”
“At the Neely’s, yes, we talked for awhile and when he found out I was looking for a job, he asked if I would want to watch the house while he’s away on business.”
“And you said yes?”
“It’s the first offer I’ve gotten.”
“It’s really a low key job.”
“You barely know him.”
“But he’s not going to be here.”
“You expect me to believe that?”
“That Emmanuel just met you and asked you to stay in his house all summer and he’s not there going to bed with you?” Ala nearly dropped the phone.
“What in the Hell are you talking about?”
“Everyone knows about Emmanuel, Ala.”
“He has some very strange habits, well sexually, and I really don’t think you should be staying in his house with him.”
“I understand,” she said.
He nodded and turned to leave. As she watched the car drive away, she thought of how living the house of someone she barely knew could really lend to her reinventing herself, or least reach into her crumbling self image and unmask what it was she wanted to say.
She gave herself a tour starting with the kitchen. All of the countertops and appliances were steel. It was very sterile, like a restaurant kitchen, with the only hint of color coming from an art deco mobile that had been converted into overhead lighting. She opened every drawer and found the usual: flatware, a rolling pin, meat thermometer, spatula, and can opener. One drawer was dedicated completely to cheese knives. She pulled them out one at a time and carefully laid them on the counter. One had a handle made of carved jade that reminded her of the healing temple. One seemed to be solid gold and looked like it came from the Middle East. She chuckled to herself, thinking it was amusing that Emmanuel, a man of many lands, had such a bourgeois habit: choosing one item and collecting that item from each city he visited.
In the refrigerator, she found a nub of goose liver and a wedge of Brie cheese. She put both on a small silver dish and sprinkled dried cranberries, she had found in the pantry, on top. She drizzled a floral design in amber honey on the plate and rummaged through the cabinet for some crackers. There was an open bottle of 2009 Tempranillo, Barco de piedra by the sink and she gave herself a heavy pour. She brought her snack to the patio table and sat in a sleek bamboo chair that hit all of the pressure points in her back just so.
“Avoiding” struck her as an odd response, but she supposed he was busy and did not have time to sort out details with people he did not expect to have to converse with.
He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a credit card.
“This is for all of your spending. Anything you need for the house and all meals, I would like on this card. It will help me with my accountant later.”
“Thank you.” Ala had not expected for all of her expenses to be paid for as well.
“I will be flying for the next eighteen hours, so you won’t be able to contact me.”
“I’m sure I’ll find everything I need.”
He nodded as he gestured to the driver to take the bags. He then reached into the pockets of his coat, making sure that whatever was supposed to be them, was, and buttoned it all the way up to his neck.
He turned to leave and then turned back to face her. She was not expecting this sudden movement and, following him, almost bumped her nose into his.
“Ala, one more thing, and please do not think I’m being prude.”
“Okay,” She said, dumb-founded.
“The rule I take the most seriously is, I would not like any guests in this house. I would prefer you have your relations and live your life elsewhere.”
Her face froze in an expression of confusion, and while she knew what he was saying coould offend her, all she could do was stifle a small laugh.