The Proposal Ch. 07bySanityCheck©
A few minutes before ten Tuesday morning the doorbell rings at Charlie's front door. Charlie thinks it odd that Teri wouldn't ping her when she arrived, but pings her telling her the door is unlocked and for her to come into the office.
"Uhh, Charlie, I'm not there yet," Teri replies.
"Oh!" Charlie exclaims. "Sorry. Well just come on in and back to the office when you get here. Now, let me see who is at the door. See you in a bit." Charlie closes the link while she is walking to the door. She opens the door to see a smiling woman holding a dozen lovely yellow roses.
"Ms. Charlie Rose?" the woman asks.
"Yes," Charlie says.
"These are for you," the woman says, handing her the bouquet.
Charlie is stunned into momentary silence. "Who are they from?" Charlie asks, trying to figure out who would send her flowers, and why.
"Don't know ma'am," the woman says backing away from the door. "There's a card attached." The young woman nods curtly before jogging back to her delivery car. Charlie is still standing in the door as the young woman guns the car backwards into the street, stopping with a short squeal of tires before racing away.
Charlie places the roses on the counter as she prepares a vase, snipping the ends of the stems before placing the roses in the vase. She is still arranging the flowers when Teri knocks on the door lightly before entering.
Charlie hears her knock and waves her into the room.
"What beautiful flowers," Teri says, walking up behind Charlie. "Who are they from?" Teri asks.
"I don't know," Charlie says, finishing arranging the flowers. She picks up the card, "Let's see, shall we?" Charlie opens the little envelope and removes the card. Flipping it open she reads, "Charlie, thank you for all you have done for me over the years, but these flowers are to thank you for suggesting that I write a couples interface for immersions. I don't know why I didn't think of it myself. Hugs and kisses, Rick" Charlie smiles as she closes the card. Placing it back on the counter she turns to Teri. "They are from a friend. They are to say thank you for an idea I gave him."
"Must have been some idea," Teri says somewhat wistfully.
"We've been friends a long time, and he's a really good guy," Charlie says, escorting Teri to her office.
"Is he single?" Teri asks hopefully.
Charlie giggles. "No, I'm afraid that not only is he happily married, but he is old enough to be your father."
"Oh," Teri says in disappointment, settling into a chair across from Charlie. "All the good ones are taken," she says with a dramatic pout.
"Oh, I'm sure there are still a few good ones out there," Charlie reassures her. "Now, the reason I asked you here today. There are a couple of reasons actually. First, do you remember the shoot you did with William Barker a couple months ago? It was the shoot up in San Francisco for the fall line of Tindle's?"
Teri nods that she remembers.
"It seems you made a good impression on Bill. Bill is well known and respected in this area and that reflects positively on you and me as well. He was most impressed by your willingness to take direction, your work ethic and your, as he put it, 'lack of drama.' " Charlie takes a deep breath for effect. "It seems that Mr. Barker is the lead photographer on a major print campaign and he has asked for you specifically as the face of that campaign. I can't say more until you sign the non-disclosure agreement." Charlie sends the NDA to Teri. "I recommend you look it over carefully before signing," Charlie suggests.
"Should I sign it?" Teri asks.
"Teri, you know I can't give you that kind of advice. But if it were me, yes, I would sign it," Charlie says. Moments later the signed document arrives back.
"Okay, now that you have signed the NDA, here's what I can tell you. Peugeot, that's a French car company in case you didn't know, is going to try to reenter the US car market. There is going to be a lot of net media, a lot of signage, and Bill wants you to be the face of the company. There is no guarantee that you will get the position, but I think you have a leg up on anyone else because Bill selected you personally. The NDA you just signed states you cannot talk about this with anyone other than me, as your agent, Bill, and representatives of Peugeot. That means no mom and dad, no boyfriends, no girlfriends. In other words, if you want this, and trust me, you do, keep your mouth shut, okay? If this leaks and they track it back to you, you're out and you will be stuck modeling winter coats in the middle of summer for the rest of your career."
Charlie watches Teri sit in stunned silence. She can appreciate what Teri must be thinking. Teri Shorr, twenty-two years old, has just had the world open before her. At almost six-feet, Teri is tall, graceful and with her enormous brown eyes and blond hair, staggeringly beautiful. Charlie has been coaching Teri, steering her career for the last six years, since she first started modeling, and it appears that not only is Teri about to step into the major leagues of modeling, but Charlie's little podunk agency is the one that is going to put her there. Charlie has worked hard; selecting only those girls that she thinks will work hard and avoid the "drama" as Bill calls it. Finding beautiful girls is easy. Finding beautiful girls that have a good work ethic and are not too full of themselves, that's the hard part. "I don't know what to say," Teri finally squeaks out.
"You say," Charlie suggest with a big smile, "thank you Charlie for being such a good mentor to me."
"Thank you Charlie for being such a good mentor to me," Teri repeats with a laugh.
Charlie rises from behind her table and steps around to give Teri a hug. "Congratulations Teri. I think you are on your way to great things," Charlie says.
Teri hugs her back fiercely. "Thank you Charlie for all you have done for me. I will never forget it."
"I certainly hope not!" Charlie says with a smile. "I want you to tell all your high-powered photographer friends what great girls we have here at C. Rose Agency."
"That's not what I meant, Charlie ..." Teri begins with a sniff as she struggles not to cry.
"I know dear," Charlie says sincerely, "but I'm trying to not cry." Charlie hears Teri blubber once before sniffing again as she releases her.
"Do you think I have a shot?" Teri asks, settling back into her chair.
Charlie leans on the table she uses to sort pictures. "I think you are the candidate to beat. Just go in there and be yourself. Teri being Teri is what got you the opportunity ... Teri being Teri is what will clinch the deal."
Teri nods, understanding. "I will try," she says.
"No, don't try. Just be yourself. Trust me," Charlie says, driving the point home. "I will let Bill know that you have signed the NDA. In a couple of months we will probably get together and talk about your deal. There is going to be some time when it will appear nothing is happening, but trust me, the wheels are turning on this. Win or lose, I am very proud of you, Teri," Charlie says sincerely. "You have come a long way from that sixteen-year-old that came around looking for a summer job."
Teri sniffs again, the tears threatening. "I just wanted to be a go-fer or carry bags or something. I never thought you would want to put me in front of the camera."
"I know talent when I see it," Charlie says, patting Teri on her hand. "And remember," Charlie adds, putting a finger to her lips in the universal "quiet" symbol. "Any questions?"
Teri pauses briefly, thinking. "Millions ... but no," Teri says finally.
Charlie laughs, "I know exactly how you feel. Remember, you are my first 'big star' so this is going to be a learning experience for both of us. Bill is a good guy. Between the two of us, we won't let anything happen to you," Charlie says with more certainty than she actually feels.
"I don't know how to thank you for all you have done for me Charlie," Teri says again, her eyes filling with tears again.
"I didn't do it Teri, you did. I was there to offer a steadying hand if you needed it. You didn't. Please don't cry. If you cry I will start to cry, then I will have to go redo my makeup," Charlie says with a sniff, trying to hold back her tears. Charlie smiles at the young woman, "I'll always be here for you Teri, if you need me. But if you remember what I have told you, you will be fine."
"Yes, I remember," Teri says.
"Good!" Charlie exclaims. "Now, do you have plans for the next few hours?"
"No," Teri says. "I can be here all day if you need me to. What can I do?"
"Well, first I want to talk to you about something and then I think we should have celebratory lunch on C. Rose Agency. How does that sound?" Charlie asks.
"Sounds great," Teri exclaims. "I always enjoy hanging out with you, Charlie."
Charlie really does like this beautiful young woman and that is part of the reason she wants to try to help her again. "Follow me into the den," Charlie says, leading Teri out of the room. As they walk down the hall Charlie begins to explain. "Teri, I am going to ask you some questions. They are personal questions and have nothing to do with your modeling or your relationship with C. Rose. If you don't want to answer any question, don't. There won't be any hard feelings." Charlie motions Teri to a chair as she sits down in another. "Do you understand what I am saying? If you don't want to talk to me we can leave right now and go laugh ourselves silly over lunch, okay?" Charlie takes a deep breath, steeling herself for what is about to come. "After that nasty business with the vid, I know you are not a virgin. I also know from our past conversions that you haven't had a great deal of luck with men. Is all this still true? The problems you have been having with men I mean?"
A couple of years ago a boyfriend secretly recorded Teri and himself having sex. It probably happens all the time as there is no way to know it is happening and no way to prevent it, but in this case the boyfriend released it onto the net. When Teri heard him bragging about it to friends she was devastated. C. Rose Agency sued on Teri's behalf and won, forcing the removal of the vid, but Teri has never fully recovered from the betrayal. It breaks Charlie's heart to see Teri, a beautiful woman with so much to give, mistreated so. While Teri hasn't actually asked Charlie for dating advice, she has confided in her on numerous occasions her seeming inability to find someone who will treat her with the love and respect she deserves.
"Men can be such pigs," Teri says with some bitterness. "They start out all right, but it seems they always turn into such ... assholes. If I sleep with them they get all weird and if I don't sleep with them they get all bitchy then leave." Teri looks at her feet. "It makes me wonder sometimes if it is me."
"It's not you, Teri," Charlie says. "I've told you that several times and you need to believe me. It's not you. You have so much to offer and if the guy can't see that, well it's his loss." Charlie's words ring hollow, even to her.
"All I want to do is find a nice normal guy, like Todd, you know? That doesn't see like I'm asking a lot," Teri says, still looking at her feet.
"I know, and you're not. You just have to hang in there until your Todd finds you. Which brings me to the point of all this. Have you ever had an immersion?" Charlie asks.
"What?" Teri is caught off guard by the sudden change in subject. "An immersion? Sure, a few times. What is all this about?" Teri asks, looking up.
"Teri, I have an immersion that I want you to experience. It is about love, and passion, and, well, sex at the end. I want to get your feedback on how it makes you feel. I have experienced it and it affected me, and Todd, who has also experienced it, profoundly. I want to offer you this chance to experience it as well."
"Why me?" Teri asks.
"Because, Teri, I feel like you are the kid sister I never had. I think this immersion will affect you in some very positive ways. At least I hope it does. I think you will have a new outlook about life, and love, and men in particular."
Teri looks at Charlie rather dubiously.
Charlie laughs lightly, "At least that is the plan. But other than Todd and me, you are the only other person to have a chance to experience it."
Teri looks at Charlie, still unsure. "So it is some kind of porno immersion?" Teri asks.
"I know it might sound kind of like that from my description, but trust me, it is as far from pornography as it can be," Charlie says. "Look, if you're not sure, don't do it. It isn't going to make me mad or hurt my feelings. Really."
Teri stares at Charlie intently for several moments. "Sure. Why not. You haven't steered me wrong yet," she says at last.
"Okay. The immersion is about two hours long." Charlie pauses while Teri whistles. "After the immersion I would like to talk to you for a few minutes about how you feel. That will make the time," Charlie zones out for a half-second, "twelve-thirty-ish when we're done. After that we're off to lunch. I have no other plans so we can take as long at lunch as you like. I would just like to be back about five or so ... so I can make Todd feel guilty that he never sends me roses," Charlie says with a twinkle in her eye, nodding her head in the direction of the roses on the countertop.
Teri laughs, "Good plan. Are you ready to start?"
Charlie sends Teri the link. "Now promise me you will experience it all the way through. This is a one time use link so if we lose the link you can't try again. Suppress or forward your pings, okay?"
Teri does so and then asks, "It's not going to be scary, is it?"
"No. Trust me. You will feel wonderful after this. Oh, one more thing. I will be in my office when you come out of the immersion. Just come get me when you are ready to talk, okay?"
"You won't be here when I come out?" Teri asks in surprise.
"No. It's better this way. When you come out you will be in complete privacy. You'll understand after the immersion. Just come get me when you are ready to talk, okay?"
"Okay," Teri says a bit warily.
With that last cryptic comment, Charlie turns and walks away.
Teri watches her go and hears the door to her office shut. Teri sits in her chair a moment, trying to figure out what in the hell Charlie was not telling her. She feels that Charlie is offering her a tremendous gift, one that she would be stupid to turn down, but the comment about complete privacy was so ... strange. Teri likes Charlie, a lot, and she finds it humorous that Charlie thinks of her as her kid sister because Teri feels like Charlie is her older sister. Charlie has been nothing but kind and understanding as she dumped her troubles on her, unable to talk to anyone else. If Charlie thinks this immersion is important, and will help her, Teri is willing to trust her judgment. Rising from her chair, Teri settle onto the immersion couch, crosses her ankles comfortably, and drops into the immersion.
* * *
Just less than two and a half hours later, as Charlie sits slowly swiveling in her chair, daydreaming, she hears a light tap on her door. "Charlie?" a voice calls quietly.
"Come in Teri. The door is open."
Teri steps into the room, fully dressed and put together, though Charlie notices that her makeup is gone. Charlie doesn't like the look on Teri's face as Teri stands in the door.
"Teri, are you okay?" Charlie asks, rising from her chair, worry evident in her voice. Teri nods, her face twisting as she steps to Charlie and pulls into a fierce hug. Teri begins to weep softly and Charlie is aghast at what she has done. "Teri I am so sorry! I didn't mean to hurt you," Charlie says, feeling herself beginning to cry.
Teri pushes her back and sniffs. "No, it was wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing that with me. It is the greatest thing anyone has ever given me. I just ... I've never felt like that in my life. Is that what it feels like to be in love?" Teri sniffs again, and wipes her eyes on the back of her hands.
Charlie backs away, wiping her eyes as well. "Dear God! You scared me to death. I thought I ... I don't know what I thought, but ..." Charlie laughs a little, wiping her eyes again. "Yes, Teri, that is what it feels like to be deeply, truly, in love."
"Do you think I will ever feel like that?" Teri asks.
"Let's go sit in the den," Charlie suggests. "Would you like something to drink? I have water and a couple different wine coolers, and I think there may be a pop around here somewhere," Charlie offers.
"A cooler, please," Teri says. "My mouth is a little dry."
Charlie returns with two wine coolers and they sit. "Do you mind if I record this, for the Rick and Giselle. I think they will want to see what you have to say."
"Not at all," Teri replies, opening her cooler. "I have a few things I would like to say to them."
* * *
Rick and Giselle are watching the recording that Charlie dropping into their inbox an hour before. They waited until after dinner to watch the vid together on the screen in the family room. Charlie's attached description of "After immersion interview ... you have to see this!" had prepared them for what the vid contained.
"I'm recording," Charlie says, looking at a stunning young woman sitting across from her in another chair. The vid will capture everything that Charlie sees and hears for Rick and Giselle to see later.
"So, you have something to want to say to Rick and Giselle?" Charlie's disembodied voice asks.
"Yes. First, I want to thank you for allowing Charlie to share this experience with me." Teri says. "I also want thank you Charlie for giving me the chance to experience it." Teri pauses and looks at her feet in embarrassment.
"Go ahead Teri. I'm sure Rick and Giselle would be interested in anything you have to say," Charlie encourages.
"Well ... Giselle ... I don't know you. I may never know you. But I hope one day to meet you. You, through your experience, have shown me something I never knew existed. Every girl dreams of finding true love, but what does that mean exactly? I never knew, but now I do. I think you have saved me from ... a lot of potential pain." Teri pauses again, wringing her hands. "I haven't had very good luck with guys. I was beginning to think that maybe that all guys were like that and I was expecting too much. But having met Todd, and kind of meeting you Rick, I know that there are some nice guys out there. It has shown me that I don't have to accept some asshole and that maybe there is a nice guy out there for me too." Teri pauses again and takes a sip from her bottle. "Anyway, thanks. That's all I wanted to say."
"You enjoyed the immersion?" Charlie's voice asks.
"Oh my God! It was so amazing," Teri gushes. "I didn't know that is what love feels like. I have never felt anything like that! I felt all warm inside, calm ... uhh ... at peace, you know? I don't know how to describe it. But I have never felt like that about anybody, ever. And the sex! That was ..." Teri stops short, eyes widening at what she was about to say.
"Go on," Charlie encourages. "I would really like to know what you think."
"Well ..." Teri starts slowly, "I was good," she says, not looking at Charlie.
"Good?" Charlie says, voice rising in teasing. "You're a better woman than me then. I practically raped Todd after I experienced it."
Teri looks at Charlie, her brilliant smile returning. "Okay, maybe a little better than good," she giggles. "Actually I have never experienced anything like that. I've had sex before, and sometimes it felt pretty good, but that was so much more than just sex. I now see the difference in sex and making love. It's not just two ways of saying the same thing." Teri pauses for a moment. "I hope I can find someone to make love to me someday."