Friday morning (continued)
"My sister thinks we should come up with a date," Matt was saying.
"Why?" I asked. "Elspeth's not the one who's getting married."
"I know, but she wants to plan her year --"
"Can't she plan her year without planning our wedding?" I shot back. "Why is she always interfering?"
As an older sister myself, with two brothers, I know that a younger brother must put his foot down in order to gain a big sister's respect.
He changed his tack. "Well, anyway, I was thinking, if you aren't ready to set a date, why don't we move in together?"
"Move in?" I was floored. "Where?"
"Wherever you want. I mean, we could move into your place or my place and see how we like living together."
I couldn't hide my dismay. We've only just begun discussing the engagement, my shrink and I. And Matt wants us to move in together! How will I keep seeing my clients? Oh, what was I thinking when I said yes? And what now? Can a girl march down the aisle and just say "Whatever!" instead of "I do"?
"Why do you look so surprised?" he asked playfully. "We'll be living together when we're married, you know."
"I know that," I snapped. "But -- but -- my place is too small for a couple. My bedroom's tiny. Where will you put all your suits?"
"Okay. Mine's bigger," he offered.
"This -- is very sudden," I stammered. "We -- we just got engaged!"
"We've been engaged for a while, honey, almost three months. You're upset. What's wrong?"
"I'm fine," I insisted, though I had the urge to bolt from the table. "Was this Elspeth's idea? I wish you wouldn't discuss our relationship with --"
"Calm down, okay?" He wasn't playful anymore. "This has nothing to do with my sister." And turning this into a fight about his sister was not going to be an easy way out.
I silently recalled the time Matt almost found out about my second phone number: One weekend, last summer, I stupidly forgot to unplug my business phone. When it rang, I was so startled that I almost gave the entire game away, dashing madly from one end of the apartment to the other! And what if both phone lines had started ringing at once? I made up some story about buying a new phone because the old one was broken. The memory of that day made my stomach tense up. I smiled stiffly.
In a more patient voice, he said, "Just think about it. You don't have to decide this minute." He paused. "God, you look ... are you okay?"
My palms were sticky. If we broke up now ... I thought, it would all be so simple. I stared at my ring.
"I'm sorry," I said, picking up a strawberry with my spoon. "You deserve someone more stable. Less neurotic." My fingers trembled. The strawberry tumbled onto the tablecloth.
"Don't be silly," he told me. "It doesn't matter what I deserve. That's not how love works."
"How love works? You're an expert? Is that something they covered in business school?" My eyes filled with tears and I rushed off to the ladies' room where I calmed my nerves by checking the voice mail on my cell phone.
A tongue-in-cheek message from Milton: "Put those dirty videos back in the deep freeze, kiddo -- I'll be in Tokyo for the next three weeks." He promised to call after his business trip. Milton's bottomless appetite for porn videos, awkward positions, and oversize sex toys doesn't turn me on. But the sound of his voice is always so reassuring. I closed my eyes and replayed the message.
Then I dabbed some powder under my eyes and returned to my boyfriend, emotionally refreshed -- much to his relief and mine. You see, the thing is, I really think Matt benefits from me being in the business, even though it has to be kept a secret. I'm a much better girlfriend when I'm feeling secure about my clients, my bargaining power -- when I'm having a good week. When I'm seeing other guys -- for money -- I'm better in bed, too. I know it.
Later, helping me into my coat, Matt brushed his lips against my left ear. I felt his teeth nipping discreetly at my lobe. "I must really be in love with you," he whispered. "You're so fucking impossible!"
A shiver of pleasure ran through me as he steered me toward the sidewalk. I smiled up at him, brought back to safety by his desire for something more immediate -- something I knew I could deliver.
As we proceeded to my apartment, I went over my mental checklist: Is the ringer on my business phone off? Did I put my excessively diverse condom assortment in the special drawer? Hide that incriminating dildo? Stash all my cash? Lock up the videos? A working girl can't be too careful.
My body was responding to his unambiguous grip -- his hand circling my arm -- and the nervous feeling in my chest was migrating through me, toward my panties. Toward him.
Monday afternoon, 2/7/00
This morning, I got one of those calls. "It's Bob! Remember me?"
"Of course!" I trilled.
Oh, dear. Which Bob? As I made small talk with the familiar voice, I ran through my Bobs: Bobby M., the lawyer in his forties from Short Hills; Bob, no last name, in the insurance business, who wears glasses; a "snowbird" called Bob in his sixties who hangs out in Boca Raton, needs a large-size Trojan; a Bob from Greenwich who --
"Is this still Sabrina's number?" Bob asked, thrown off by my voice.
Ah. The snowbird! Taking a break from his sun-drenched winter.
"It's me!" I assured him in a softer voice; this Bob thinks I'm 26.
Jasmine regards multiple naming of the working self with impatience: "Who can keep up with all your names?" Jasmine doesn't use a work name, she calls herself Jasmine at all times. "Suppose some guy runs into you at a gallery opening, calls you Boopsie or Cupcake or whatever, and screws everything up for you? Hide it in plain sight," she insists. "Besides, they think it's tacky when a girl has too many names."
Different names are handy because so many clients have the same name. Bobby the lawyer calls me Suzy, Insurance Bob calls me Lisa, and Bob the Snowbird knows me as the kittenish "Sabrina." I can identify nine out of ten johns (or Bobs) by cross-checking a guy's voice with the name he calls me. This is like having Caller ID software implanted in your forehead. Unlike some girls, I never have to crassly inquire "Which Bob are you?" to a man I've had sex with. In other words, it might actually be classier to have a few working names. Despite what Jasmine thinks.
Two years ago, I bought a small list of guys from Daria, who left the business ... to get married. Neither she nor I had an inkling, then, that I, too, would contract the marriage virus. Half-Persian, half-German, from somewhere vaguely south of L.A., Daria was confident that I would do well with her clients because, as she put it, "You're exotic like me. You're not as busty, but that's okay because you're Asian." (Like so many California hookers, Daria had pretty much assimilated after five years on the East Coast. But her D-cup breasts were undeniably West Coast and so was her assessment of my figure. By local standards, I'm almost busty. Really.)
I gave myself a new name, making myself years younger and much newer to the business. Daria's former clients think "Sabrina" has been working for two years at the most.
As a child, I used to harangue my mother: "Why was I called Nancy? Why can't I be a Suzy or a Barbara? Why wasn't I named Felicity?" Not having the faintest idea what she was foretelling, Mother replied, in that prim tone (which remains her parental hallmark), "When you grow up, you will have the freedom to choose any name you wish. Until then you will be called Nancy."
So what would Matt think if he knew how I've realized my earliest ambitions? He'd be ... appalled. I'm sure he has no idea how much fun it is to rename yourself at will. And how do you explain a thing like that to a guy like Matt, anyway?
When Bob showed up, I was wearing a short pleated skirt with high narrow heels. My red toenails glistened against strappy golden Pradas -- a confectionary bare-legged look that I could never wear to a john's office or a good hotel. Wouldn't dream of wearing outside of my apartment, actually.
"Look who's here!" I cooed.
I fluttered around the living room, bending forward to adjust the VCR -- and to grant a quick peek up my skirt. Easy to do, in heels. If I were traveling through the halls of the Peninsula or the Four Seasons, these shoes might throw me off. But within the radius of my bed, I'm gliding; I belong in them. I'm a better 26-year-old today, at 30-something, than I was at 26. And I enjoy being a "new" girl -- more than I ever enjoyed it when I really was new. So when Bob mentioned the Stanhope, a hotel I've been to many times, I feigned ignorance.
"Sabrina," he chuckled. "Didn't Daria teach you anything?"
"Only the important things." I giggled and pulled my skirt down to hide my transparent white panties.
"Don't do that," he protested. "Daria wouldn't want you to cover up your pussy like that, would she?"
"Daria taught me how to eat pussy," I remarked in a friendly voice. "She teaches by example."
His eyes twinkled as I slipped into his crude routine.
"Does she?" he replied gamely. "So she did teach you something. Daria likes to have her snatch licked, doesn't she?"
"Only if you know what you're doing," I told him. "And she tells me you have a well-trained tongue."
(Daria and I didn't know each other thatwell. In fact, we worked together just a few times before I bought her book. But her clients like to think we were lovers. Before she moved on, Daria planted this cute idea in their minds -- and called during her honeymoon to remind me. She was a conscientious call girl, even in retirement.)
Soon I was standing in front of Bob in my panties and heels, bent over with my skirt at my feet and my smooth rump in his face.
"What a gorgeous ass," he sighed. I could hear him unzipping his pants.
"Are you playing with your cock?" I murmured, pulling my panties clearly to one side. I tilted my pussy to give him a better view.
There was a hungry moan as he held back from coming too fast.
"Let's go in the bedroom," he suggested.
"Good idea," I agreed, glancing at the clock on the VCR. "Where we can relax ... and I can try out your tongue."
This wouldn't work if Bob knew how long I've been in the business. He needs me to be Sabrina: naive, dirty-mouthed, willing to do all the work, very much in control, excited by my "new" career. A tall, complicated order. Especially when you're really new.
I teased him and sat over his face, demanding that he lick my ass.
"Your tongue ... " I was cooing again. "I could get addicted to that tongue!"
I changed positions and slipped a condom onto his erection. "Are you going to fuck me today?" I was kneeling on the bed, poised to suck his cock. I ran a fingertip over his dark chest, flicking the gold chain to one side; Bob's generation still believes you can't be too rich or too tan.
"Oh, my god. Sabrina -- you're such a hot little girl!" His erection was impressive. I placed it in my mouth and gave some attention to the head, then worked my way toward the base. "Not yet, not yet," he moaned, pressing his cock upward. Only with a condom could I give him the following treat; I felt an unexpected throb as I pulled him into my throat. He exhaled loudly, turning rapidly to jelly -- my signal to pull away, grab a tissue, and shift gears.
As I tidied up, I turned off my slutty act but continued to play bubbly Sabrina. My boyfriend never sees this part of me. Guys like Matt don't mate with bubbly chicks. It's true, I do seem unambitious, compared to the women in Matt's daily life -- his boss, his up-and-coming female colleagues. But unambitious is permissible (in a girl) if you're not too bubbly, and if you're respectable. My fake job isn't a power gig -- nor is it glamorous -- but it has nothing to do with my looks. And Matt wouldn't want to be seen as a guy who marries a girl for her looks! (Though of course he wouldn't have fallen for a girl who wasn't pretty.) That stack of volumes on my bedroom floor by dead white novelists from Thackeray to Mrs. Gaskell to Henry James, interspersed with stuff by live brown ones, implies that I'm serious at the core.
Whereas Matt finds my reading tastes respectable, Bob's impressed that I read anything at all. Bob's the kind of self-made guy who could marry a woman who doesn't even read. He made all his money in real estate speculation.
"You're a very nice girl," Bob assured me in a deliberate, fatherly tone. "A wonderful young lady." He was sliding some hundreds under the tissue box on my bedside table.
I was touched by his desire to validate the fluffy dirty-mouthed girl he sees three times a year. I suddenly wondered if Matt, upon meeting such a bimbette, would bother to say something corny, something kind. Would he know that it makes a difference? Would he care? I don't want to go there, I guess; anyway, Matt belongs to a different part of my life.
As I closed the door I could hear Bob stepping into the elevator, and I wondered: What happens to the bubbly "Sabrina" when Nancy marries Matt? Must I burn the bimbette to save the woman?
- - - - - - - - - - - -
From the forthcoming book "Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl" by Tracy Quan. Copyright (©) 2001 by Tracy Quan. To be published in August by Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.