Chapter 2

Janet Reynolds slid the card key into the door and pushed it open. She was wearing a white, hotel bathrobe and terry cloth slippers, the kind that came in a plastic wrap in five star hotels. For your personal use. Her hair was tied up in a pony tail and she was wearing a little make up. She reached the table and George looked at her over his cup of coffee.

“Youah eatin’ breakfast in you’ robe?

Janet froze her body, but not the intensity of the stare as she squinted at him.

“Have a problem with that?”

George exhaled loudly through his nostrils and said “No, no prablem.”

Janet sat down across the table from him, fixed herself a coffee, leaned back in her chair and stared at George over the rim as she slurped it.

“So, how was she?”

“Excuse me?”

“In bed, genius!”

“Nona you’ business.”

George continued to scroll the button on his Blackberry. A few seconds later Janet’s eyes widened.

“Oh. My. I can’t believe it. You didn’t sleep with her.”

George pursed his lips and lifted his eyes from his phone. “We had dinnah. I asked her if she wanted to work with us. The end.”

Janet smirked. “George, honey, no need to pretend. You said it yourself. You wanted to get to know her. It does not take a genius to figure out what that means when it comes to you.” said Janet before taking a bite of her bagel with cream cheese.

“Well, it don’ mean that, ok?”

“Well. See, that’s good. Cause if she turns into another scandal, George, you’re finished.”

“Whass wrong withyu today, ah?”, George raised his voice, “This was you’ idea in the first place. And, as I said, iss nona you’ business. You’ business as fah as my life goes iss the media. The less, the bettah.” said George and got up from his seat. He put on his jacket, scarf and sent a text message. Janet was looking at him without missing a beat, drinking her coffee.

“You’re having one of your bad mornings, George. Be careful, we can’t afford to screw this up.”

“Stap this or youah gonna have a bad mohnin’. You’ve gone too fah. Don’t fohget! It’s my careeah to screw up. Not you’s.” His nostrils flared. “Don’ come heah in you’ robe and don’ act like weah still togetha. You take care of the business and thass it. And stap visitin’ my mothah.” He said and slammed the door behind him.

***

Armed with a coffee and a laptop, I sat on the sofa to Google things to do in Kingston. I made a point of writing down the actual addresses of all of the jails and the hours of operation of the museums. I also printed pages of these episodical fourty-five minute walking tours. They looked like fun.

I was nervous about meeting George and if I am being completely honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. My door bell rang.

“Hey, Jessie!” I said as I hugged my best friend since kindergarten. “Thanks for coming.”

“Marla, please.” She held one of her hands up as if I were talking nonsense. “You know that a herd of horses could not keep me away.”

“Yeah, but only you would come to dress me up at 7:30 in the morning.”

Jessie was not only one of my best friends. She was also my stylist, my dress maker and an emergency I-need-to-look-fabulous-in-my-own-clothes advisor. She was also the only person on the planet, other than my mother, who has been with me through the Alan era from the very beginning.

Alan and I, we danced, we dated, travelled the world with a plan of moving to Sweden and opening a dance school.

Last Danza de Amar meet I attended was with Alan. When we came back from Rio, he took a trip back to Uppsala and I didn’t go with him at the time. Two weeks later, I received a phone call that there’s been an accident. Alan was in a coma.

I got to Sweden as soon as I could. Alan had gained consciousness and was dealing with the fact that doctor told him that he would never walk again. I was devastated, but he shut me out. We fought a lot while I was there and he refused to talk to me about how he was feeling. I had lost him.

A week later, Alan broke up with me. And I haven’t heard from him or competed since.

Jessie brought reinforcements in a form of a suitcase of shoes, purses and accessories. She had already rose to such occasion once when she put my outfit together for the dinner with George. I came to trust her opinion when it came to fashion and style almost unconditionally. One great thing about Jessie’s fashion advice was that she wasn’t about what she thought looked good, but what she thought you’d look good in as well as keep within your style and personality.

She held up a little black weekend knitted dress with a zipper down front.

“No short skirts, please!” I said, “I don’t think he needs any encouragement. In fact, I’m all for warm over fashionable today. I may be walking and it’s negative fifteen outside. Can we look more along the lines of my frigid-bitch turtlenecks and some corduroy pants with long johns?”

“Marla!” She scoffed as if I swore at her. “We’ve talked about this already. It’s a slippery slope. What if things get… interesting? Do you really want to be in long johns?”

“Yes, in fact. It’ll be like an insurance policy. If I am wearing long johns, I won’t be able to take my pants off.”

“From what I hear, long johns won’t help you. You’ll just be sorry you are wearing them. And then later, you’ll be sorry they didn’t help you.”

“That bad, eh?” I was folding shirts into my dresser drawers while Jessie laid out outfits and matched bracelets, purses and shoes on my bed.

She looked up crossed her arms in front of her, one holding a pair of casual walking shoes and the other little clutch wallet while she nodded her head. “Yeah. It’s pretty bad.”

Jesse kept up with all celebrity gossip. Every once in a while, she’d pass stacks of trashy tabloids to me. So, it was not really unusual that she was completely and totally acquainted with George da Silva’s antics.

She worked her magic and in about fifteen minutes I had two perfect outfits laid down on my bed to choose from. Neither of them featured my turtlenecks, but they were in line with what I liked. One of them was more formal, with beige wool pants, my brown cashmere sweater, brown leather boots and a little red purse. White cashmere scarf and a white woollen hat. The other outfit was more casual, my dark jeans, thicker black sweater and a puffy light blue vest with casual walking shoes, little black purse and the same scarf and hat.

“I think I’ll keep it casual this time. Thanks Jessie.” I gave her a hug. She beamed with pride. I loved watching her work with outfits. It was like a second nature to her.

“So, you’re coming to my party tonight?” Jesse asked before heading out the door. “We let you skip the lunch with Sandra, but skipping the party is not an option. Ok?”

“I’ll be there. Promise.”

***

“Mornin”’ George said as I entered the limo, leaned in and he pecked my cheek.

Even though I expected it this time, the fact that he smirked after lead me to believe that it’s obvious I wasn’t totally relaxed. Why does he have to kiss me? Can he not shake hands or just smile, like the rest of us?

I opened up my folder and took out the pdf’s. “We could go and visit the jails or we can go on a walking tour through King Street, Princess Street, but if I were you, I’d pick something like the Portsmouth Village and then we can go and grab a bite to eat at the restaurant–”

“Cawfee?” He pointed at the take out cup on the table of the limo. Beside it was a white napkin with two creamers and two milks, three white sugars, three brown sugars, and two types of sweeteners. “You didn’t say how you take yours.”

“Like my men. Black and strong!” I blurted. I couldn’t believe I just said that. He chuckled aloud as he handed me the cup.

“Thanks.” I added.

“M-hm.” He smiled as he watched me sip.

“So, as I said, I have all these walking tours in here that are quite interesting, but I recommend the one in the Portsmouth Village.”

He leaned his elbows on his knees and leaned forward. “I don’ mean to be, ya know, but I don’ usually, walk… ya know what I’m sayin’.” He said as quietly as possible.

“George, you will draw less attention to yourself if you walked than having a stretch limo cruise at snails pace up and down the two streets of downtown. People recognize a Lincoln.”

“Ouch, baby, that hurts.” He feigned an insult. His hurt feelings were clearly very fleeting as he slid down the leather seat towards me. “If we stay in here, we can get to know each other.”

“The jails or the harbour, George?”

“I nevah liked jails. Let’s go for a walk, then.” He smiled and winked at me, leaning somewhat back, but way closer than orginally started.

It was 9:42 am. It was gonna be a long day.

***

At about 3:00 pm, we pulled up in front of my house. I couldn’t wait to go upstairs and relax before Jessie’s party. George is a very difficult person to be around and drained my energy at a rapid pace.

“So what are we doin’ tonight?” George asked. I couldn’t even feasibly conceive that this may not be the last I see of him this weekend, let alone today.

“Tonight?”

“Yeah! We are getting to know each othah, remembah? We gatta spend time togethah.”

“Well, I’m sorry, but I have plans for tonight. My best friend is having a party and said I’d go.”

“I had something a bit more intimate in mind.”

I can’t believe he just said that. He just fucking crossed the line. I took a deep breath.

“Look. We are going to maybe work together. That is it!” I had no idea what else to say. “That’s it!” I repeated for a good measure, because *I* certainly wasn’t gonna poke at the hornets’ nest.

He just smirked. It infuriated me.

“I was gonna bring dinner to your place and we could talk about *working together*.” The emphasis was obvious and then for a split second I thought that he maybe just can’t turn it off. Like muscle memory or something.

“Why my place?” I was just buying time till I figured out what I was actually going to do with this situation. Pissing him off was not an option and I didn’t know him nearly well enough to actually know how far I can push it.

“We could go to the hotel, but I thought you may not appreciate Janet hanging around.”

“Who’s Janet and why would she be hanging around?”

“My publicist and she just finds a way to insert herself.” He said in a tone I have not seen yet. There’s something to this Janet. “I guess that’s why she’s good at what she does.”

“Why is she here?” I asked. I am certainly not getting to know her and I have not even agreed to this yet.

“Thass a great question.”

And he said nothing else.

When all else fails, all you are left with is the truth.

“The party, tonight!” I can’t believe I was about to invite him to come with me and blow my friends’ plan to set me up with this guy Zack. But since I was not really interested in being set up and George is set on coming with me, it seemed like a perfect excuse. Yet, it felt a little high school. “It was supposed to be a set up, but the guy does not know, so you can come with me if you want. But I have to go.”

What he said next, was not something I expected.

“Look, Mahla, iss your life, but I wanna warn ya that I generally don’t go over well with boyfriends. No matter what happens. And I got no talerance for that shit.”

I think my jaw dropped. Or at least it felt like it. But if I am totally honest with myself, it was not surprising and he was probably right.

“It won’t be a problem. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.” That was all I said. If he knows about Alan, he’ll get it. If not, it’s innocuous enough.

“Great. When should I pick you up?”

“Uhm…just so you know, I am not sure it’s your kind of thing, you know. It’s just a few people get together talk about their boring lives, you know, eating canapés, you know.”

“Youah gonna be theah, so iss my kinda thing, you know.”

Marla, it’s a hunderd grand. I hate me right now.

I got back up to my apartment and sent a text message to Jessie.

George is coming with me to the party. What should I wear?

I tossed the phone on the coffee table and laid back on my couch trying to take in the last twenty four hours. And more importantly, the last twenty minutes.

He just assumed that he can tag along to wherever I happen to be this weekend. And yes, there was very little I knew about him, except that he shows up in his limo and whips me away to do something. It was so surreal that I almost forgot to worry about Alan. Almost.

My phone buzzed. It was Jesse.

George is coming here? WTF? WHAAAT?

And then another one right after.

What am I gonna do about Zack?

And then another.

Wear that dress you didn’t want to wear today.

I knew Jessie would panic, but there was nothing I could do.

Hell bent on following me all weekend. He comes with me or I can’t come. We’ll see you at six.

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