Nov. 22, 1999
Friday evening, Oct. 1
This afternoon, I met Jasmine at Renato's where she was getting half a head of highlights, in anticipation of her date tonight with David, the guy she picked up at Sexaholics. "He's a little too good-looking, don't you think? Says he's divorced -- but no kids, so he might have money to throw around." I tried to take a lively interest but my mind was still fixated on Allison's frightening accusations.
"He goes to three meetings a week and he's a compulsive flirt," Jasmine continued. We were walking to the Japanese grocery store where Jasmine buys her enriched eggs -- chock full of life-prolonging omega-3. "I told him I was once kept by a very generous guy who died of a heart attack. So he knows I'm in the market for a new sugar daddy, or maybe just a Sweet 'N' Low. This way he gets that I'm not a freebie."
Though I couldn't keep up with the mechanics of Jasmine's budding money-affair, I nodded agreeably. She was obviously pleased with her new project.
"Have you checked him out?" I asked. "What does he do for a living?"
"He's got a listed number but no obvious job. I think he plays the market. You know, this could be a great new career for you, too -- you've got the looks and the manners and the personality to snag a sugar daddy -- What's wrong with you?" she asked, suddenly. "You look terrible."
When I told Jasmine about Allison's late night call and her furious threats, her face went pale.
"Is she mad enough to really do it?" Jasmine wondered aloud. "Allison was always idiotic but never vicious!"
"Can she really have me arrested for trying to sell her book?" I asked.
"She can't prove it," Jasmine said, "unless April was taping you both -- then Allison could be dragged in as a witness. But why did you hide your session with Jack from Allison? It's not like you were trying to steal her business -- he called you." She paused. "Didn't he?"
"What do you mean?" I demanded. "If you can't believe me --"
"Stop taking everything personally! I'm just trying to think this through! You should have told Allison that Jack was meeting with that goon. God knows what Tom Winters told her. I'll call her and straighten this out," Jasmine offered. "You just need a mediator."
"No!" I exclaimed. "Don't make it any worse. She already thinks you're part of this! Besides, you're getting a bad reputation."
"Excuse me?" Jasmine looked insulted.
"Eileen thinks you poisoned everybody against her! And she's suspicious of you. She can't understand why your name has never come up in the investigation. If Allison talks to Eileen about you --"
"Oh, really?" Jasmine replied. "Well, maybe I'm smart enough to stay away from vipers like April. Maybe it's because I actually know how to take care of myself. The trouble with girls like you --" She stopped and pulled out her phone. "-- is you're all closet Cinderellas, afraid to grow up, to face things. When another girl has her act together, you turn her into a scapegoat." She deftly punched some numbers. "I had no idea Eileen was so jealous of me. Hello?" A victorious look flashed across her face. "Allison! It's Jasmine, a voice crying in the wilderness. Now please hear me out -- Don't hang up! Nancy's here, too, and you owe her --" Jasmine exhaled. "God damn it!" Defeated, she closed her phone. "The inmates are running the asylum. It's official," she announced. "I was wrong. You don't need a mediator -- you need a fucking lawyer. There's nothing more dangerous than a best friend who turns on you."
How does Tom Winters know so much about Allison's customers and her transactions with other girls? All the time that I held her client book, I hid it in a sealed envelope and never showed it to anyone. Even if April is a snitch, she can't know what's in the book. Is Jack simply the latest in a series of johns feeding information to Winters? Though he's the first I've heard about, perhaps I'm the last to know.
Recent events -- like April's tacky lawsuit against the Web site madam ... and the endorsement of a big name Hollywood lawyer! -- make me wonder if I'm out of touch with this business. It sure has changed: Will, I, too, end up hiring a lawyer because of some girl I befriended on the job? Does this put me on April's level, somehow?
The whole idea of lawyers coming between hookers is just alien, unthinkable -- and heartbreaking. I spent last night alone, contemplating my sorry circumstances, with an overnight camphor mask on my face.
I shrink inside, recalling Matt's cold stare when I tried to kiss him goodbye ... But I must stop dwelling on that. This morning, he asked me to meet him for dinner at La Metairie in the Village. Though I have no appetite, it's a major gesture when Matt agrees to eat someplace that tiny -- a romantic concession, on his part, sitting at an intimate table in a shoebox of a restaurant. Maybe things will work out.
The setting couldn't have been more perfectly romantic. Two good-looking gay guys -- distinguished and slightly grey, like twins -- were sitting next to us. Their laughter was bitchy, confidential -- and cozy. A 20-ish couple who seemed to be on their first date sat behind us. A comfortable older pair -- she slightly anorexic in sleek black, he wearing a dark beret -- gave us an admiring look as we entered. If this confident couple thinks we belong together, maybe we do, I thought. But I felt stiff and empty inside, uninterested in food.
"What's really going on between you and Allison?" Matt asked, diminishing my appetite further. "What was that phone call? She said something that scared you."
"What do you mean?" I said, horrified by the extent of his recall.
"I want to know what's going on in your life. Was Allison threatening you?"
"Sort of," I answered sheepishly. "She was drunk." I didn't know how to say it -- I feel like I've lost my only friend, even though she's not my only friend? It's like losing a sister except that, never having had one, I have no idea what that means. (Jasmine assures me that having a sister is simply a major nuisance.)
"But you weren't just talking to a drunk -- you were genuinely scared," Matt pointed out. His fingers gently brushed against the back of my hand.
"If you knew I was scared," I countered, "why didn't you try to make me un-scared?" Why lie there, listening, investigating, theorizing, when you could have held me?
"How can I comfort you if you don't communicate with me? You were trying to hide your conversation," he said, looking right at me. "You haven't eaten more than three bites of your pasta. What have you done that you're so scared you can't eat?"
I've never been able to hide my healthy appetite. Picking at food is a dead giveaway.
"I've been upset about us,"I replied. "You weren't exactly affectionate the next morning. And what about the things you hide from me?"
"Stop changing the subject!" he said abruptly. He grabbed my wrist, causing my fork to spin away from the table. I felt the humiliating bemusement of the good-looking gay guys radiating from their table as the first-daters froze in mid-conversation. "Don't lie to me! WHAT have you DONE?"
"Stop it," I hissed, "everybody's looking. I wasn't lying about Friday morning," I said, pushing my chair back with as much dignity as I could muster. "And I don't like being accused of things I haven't done."
"Wait -- I haven't accused you of anything!" he called after me, as I left the table.
"I'm sure your accusations are well worth the wait!" I replied, heading for the exit. The older couple looked positively delighted. I guess long-term couples get a thrill out of other people's disasters but I was ashamed of the racket we were making. A pissed off waiter glared at me and I bolted toward the street where I ducked into a cab -- then spent ages tangled up in noisy traffic. God, that's the last time I'm going to the Village on a Saturday night ...
Tuesday Oct. 5
True to his word, Milt arrived at noon carrying in his coat pocket a bank envelope stuffed with multiple hundreds for the purchase of his season ticket -- and his kiss. The envelope sat on my coffee table under a heart-shaped Elsa Peretti paperweight, and I was relieved when he didn't lunge -- but that wouldn't be Milt's style. He disappeared into the bathroom for awhile and emerged with a minty aura.
Kneeling over his lap in my bra and panties, I loosened his tie and touched his lips gently with my own -- my tongue slid timidly into his mouth, and then, as I relaxed against his chest, I felt his arms gently holding me in place. I realized I wouldn't really get away with doing it just once -- "If you don't like it, we'll never do it again," was the original promise.If I never kiss him after this, it will be like saying I hated it. It would be ... cruel, a slap in the face.
I thought, If I can stay in control and be the one who's kissing him ... but then, I felt the air leaving my body and I was allowing Milt to kiss me, too. His kiss was gentle and firm -- free of the greedy passion that younger guys exhibit when they're turned on. And my breasts, pressing against him, were responding. I was surprised at how easy this was for the rest of my body, not just my mouth. He released me after a moment, and asked for an assessment: "So, how agonizing was that?"
I giggled. "Not very. I might even let you do it again -- on one condition."
"What's that?" he said, running a hand down the back of my thigh.
"We can't do this in front of the other girls," I insisted. "Even the girls who do kiss --"
He laughed. "Of course. Especially in front of them."
And then I kissed him again -- or did he kiss me?