Revenge of the Nerd Ch. 32byrpsuch©
I had met him when I was younger, but I was again introduced to Pietro Cohen. He wasn't as pretty as me, but what a hunk.
When I might otherwise have had the inclination to swoon, what I was thinking was, "Bask in the warmth of your presence as a rose resumes its growth when revived from the chill of the night by the morning sun, and be nourished by the sound of your sweet voice."
Pietro was rich, charming and supremely confident. Even his posture said he could buy anything, get anything, do anything and have anyone he wanted.
His confidence was topped with just a soupçon of arrogance. I recognized it easily. It used to be me. The difference now was I was starting to think perhaps I had earned it.
He was fun to be with. He flirted, he charmed, he flat out hit on me. And he danced as well as Jeff. This time around the party circuit, I could follow.
He was so disappointed I wouldn't leave with him it nearly broke my heart.
Nah, I was just amused. Last summer I would have bestowed on him the gift of my company, not because he deserved it, but because it would have been fun and, why not.
My Father was delighted I was having such a good time. He saw a possible match. He was so seriously deluded.
When I returned to England, I reported in to Jeff. "I met Prince Charming at the ball."
"How fortunate for you, and especially for him."
"Why would I want Prince Charming when I have Beast?" I wrote.
The reply didn't come back quite so fast.
"I'm not really sure why, but I take it that is a compliment?"
Your sister thinks so. I could picture his smile as he wrote it. I had one of my own.
Jeff had nothing of particular interest to report. He was working long hours and having the time of his life doing it.
He had not been cut off completely from social contact with members of the gentler gender. He had taken his sister out to dinner a couple of times.
This was pretty unusual behavior for a brother his age, but I understood. It was Jeff. It amazed me that a single action by Jeff could simultaneously be both surprising and expected.
I had my friends and my parents had theirs.
Just like at home, though we lived under the same roof, we didn't cross paths very often.
I did cross paths with their friends' children every year. We hadn't exactly grown up together, but I had known them for some time. They had not seen a change in me prior to this summer, and probably didn't notice it now unless they were paying careful attention.
It was unlikely they were. Of what importance could it be to them?
I had seen the growing sense of entitlement, the growing ennui. It was difficult to envision these people as the leaders of tomorrow.
The final stop on the Pick-Your-Future-Husband Tour was the Riviera. It featured a different cast of characters playing the same roles.
Etienne Roth was playing the role of Pietro Cohen. He played it brilliantly. He had the money, the looks, the confidence and the presence without the arrogance Pietro had shown. It may well have been there, but his thespian skills were much more subtle.
Or perhaps he was more genuine. He was truly appealing. Why hadn't I noticed before? I probably had. But this time, I was different.
All my relationships before Jeff had been based on what they could do for me. They might get something they wanted, but there was no real reciprocation. My concept of a relationship had not included mutuality. Now that it did, I was able to look at a man differently, even though nothing about him had changed.
Etienne was charming and I could see that with all his qualities, he could be someone it would be possible and even reasonable to care about.
That was it; that was what had been missing. When the entire focus of a relationship is what he can do for me, it isn't possible to develop feelings for someone who is, essentially, a tool. Adding the concepts of what can I do for him and can I care for him, it's not clear you can have one without the other.
Nonetheless, Etienne was not someone I cared for. He was too far behind to ever catch up to Jeff.
If somehow Jeff had not been a part of my life, Etienne would have made a perfectly acceptable husband.
He would cheat on me, he was French, but I would be financially independent of my parents. I would rarely see them which suited me just fine.
I could party to my heart's content. Little would be asked or expected of me.
I would provide him children, though I would only need to be involved to the extent I supervised hiring the people who actually raised them.
I would be admired and praised in polite society. What formerly might have been acceptable now sounded revolting to me.
I danced with the older gentlemen as well. I was really getting into dancing and they had a lot of experience. I even danced with my father a few times after he noticed I seemed to like dancing. It was good to know he would be able to dance with his little girl at her wedding. He just would not be happy with my choice of the groom.
And the night ended.
We returned to England the following day and started to pack. I don't ever remember having this level of anticipation and excitement. I worked very hard to tone it down so I wouldn't attract my parents' attention.
I recall Jeff telling me Sun Tzu said when the enemy knows your plans, you will not be successful. When the enemy does not know your plans, you will be successful.
He seemed to say everything in pairs. Sun Tzu, not Jeff.
As far as my relationship with Jeff was concerned, there was no doubt in my mind my parents would be the enemy.
I probably should have spent more time with Etienne and Pietro and given them more encouragement in full view of the enemy. Maybe it wasn't too late. I could talk them up on the return trip.
I looked forward to telling Jeff about the adventures of General Fine.
The campaign started quite easily.
"Didn't I tell you you'd have a good time on this trip?"
"You wanted to stay home. Foolish girl."
"It was so nice to see all of our old friends." Mom wanted to tone down the foolish girl reference. "And some of those boys have grown up to be so handsome."
That, of course, would be the quality she prized most since all were of our class.
"That Etienne has grown up to be such a striking young man. And he's very successful as well," offered Dad.
I guess we had reached the point where we were all going to say stuff, but in order to understand the conversation, you need to recognize the subtext.
Etienne was twenty two and had just graduated college. The only extent to which he was successful was the expectation that his father would move him up in the business as quickly as he could without putting the enterprise at risk due to the lack of experience or ability.
"Well, he is very good looking," I stated with reluctance. "It won't come as any surprise if he becomes a big success."
The subtext intended for my parents was that I was attracted to him, but was reluctant to admit it or pursue it because my Father had indicated an interest in him for me. The purpose was to make him think that, so he would not think there was somebody else.
This was a delightful game.
"He told me he's going to be pretty busy for the next few years. Besides, I have to finish school."
Yes, I would really be interested in pursuing him, Dad, but the timing is not right.
"You have that long winter break. I'm sure he'd be delighted to see you," Dad countered. "I do a lot of business with his father. I'm sure they would make you very welcome."
"My goodness," not the way I would have phrased it in other company, "it sounds like you're trying to set up an arranged marriage. How much is my dowry?"
"No need to get snotty."
"That Pietro Cohen is quite the looker himself and I understand from his father he is doing extremely well."
Either Mom hadn't discussed the plan with Dad, or they were offering me options.
"His father says he is an aggressive businessman," she said.
I don't know about business, but he was pretty aggressive trying to maneuver me into isolated locations and I'd had to smack his hands away several times. He seemed to think "no" was shorthand for "keep trying, I love it."
He was 24 and I'm sure he had been showing his father his brilliance for the last two years.
"Any other options? If you're going to marry me off, shouldn't I at least have more choices?"
My Father stopped just short of an angry tone.
"Nobody's marrying you off. You know your Mother and I only want the best for you. We're just saying how impressed we were with these young men."
That was true as long as the best for me coincided with doing what they wanted.
"Well, I'm glad to hear it. I'm only just about to turn 21 and I'm really not very experienced in these matters."
What matters? Was that sufficiently vague? Perhaps I had just suggested I was still a virgin. Could they be that gullible? Sure, if that was what they wanted to believe.
"Well, no one is going to rush you, dear. You know I married your Father when I was not much older than you are now."
Nobody is going to rush you, but time is running out. I'm living proof you haven't much time left.
This exchange of verbal legerdemain continued for a while.
My parents' points were that I was old enough to start my adult life, by which they meant marry someone who would be useful to the family either socially or economically.
These were impeccable young men and I could hardly do better in terms of looks, charm, wealth and something they left undefined.
They could certainly provide additional candidates for me to choose from, though, of course, that's not how they put it.
My position was that I didn't need some other family's money. I was studying for a career and it would be a waste not to pursue it.
Mom said it was important to have the background, but implied it was completely unnecessary to actually use it.
I told them I needed to find myself; to figure out what I really wanted from life.
They said they had taught me who I was and we fill in what we want from life in between our obligations. Children chase after what they want to be when they grow up. Adults do what they must.
I assured them I would think about all they said. I said it with such apparent sincerity I almost believed it myself.
They should have believed it; it was true. I would think about all of it. I didn't know who I was or what was important to me and I would have continued to be quite a fool not to think about it.
They were also impressed with how upbeat and cheerful I was after what they had thought would be a difficult intervention.
I'm sure they felt they had succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
In a way they were correct. My motivations were well beyond their scariest nightmares.