Two's a Crowd Ch. 10byangiquesophie©
The conference table shone in designer spotlights. So did the regiment of spotless designer glasses and all the pretty bottles of designer water. There were designer coffee containers and designer cups. There was also hot water for the pretty teabags in the precious wooden box. Earl Grey, I read. Ceylon and Oolong and China Blossom, names that took me away to exotic places.
I was early. I knew I would be. I always liked to just sit alone for a while before an important meeting, just to savor the moment and take in the feel of the place, the smell and the sound. I hardly ever used that time to read papers or prepare myself with pertinent information. I just sat and stared -- taking in even the tiniest fleck that danced in the lamplight.
I had no idea how it worked, but when the meeting started, I was always the most relaxed person in the room. Maybe I just "owned" the place more than the others. It felt as if it were my turf, I guess.
But this time my brain refused to empty itself. Too much had happened. And too much depended on the next few hours.
That evening on our way down from Rhode Island to New York we never stopped -- other than to fill the tank with gas and to buy some junk food.
The girls had huddled up in the back seat. They talked, their voices were too low for me to understand. At times I thought I heard sobbing. Later it seemed like giggling. When I looked back to check on them, they had both fallen asleep.
I knew we were in big trouble. I also knew that everything might have been for nothing, anyway. There was a good chance Myriam would run off again the moment we arrived. And even if she didn't at once, it might be a matter of time.
She had held me tight, almost desperate, the first twenty miles after we dumped Enthwistle. She'd kissed and thanked me -- pushing her half naked body into mine. She had cried.
Erica had driven a while, then I had taken over the wheel -- telling the girls to get some sleep.
I glanced back again. Streetlights washed over Myriam's face -- she looked relaxed. There was a little smile around her lips. She was intelligent. She must know how deep the shit was that she had sank us into. Or I, for that matter. But for the moment she seemed beyond that.
I wondered who she was now and that thought brought a dark cloud with it. In the magazine pictures and at the engagement party there hadn't been a sign of Estelle around. Nor had I seen any of the vulgar behavior that came with Myriam's sex-crazed alter ego. Oh yes, she had gone wild today, fucking Erica. She had come more extravagantly than she had ever with me. And she had readily done things Myriam would not ever have dreamed of. She certainly had acted as Enthwistle's submissive sexpot.
But she had been Myriam all the time. She had been soft, gentle, even subtle in her outrageous actions. The way she had dressed (when she was dressed) had been tasteful, even modest -- as far as her obscene new breasts allowed. Nevertheless she had been Enthwistle's creature. In how she acted she might have been Myriam, but in what she did the control of Estelle was evident.
Her mother's words came back to me. "By now Estelle can be both the prude and the slut if need be. She has taken over." I glanced back. Was she right?
As we passed New Haven the thought hit me that somewhere inside her mind a barrier must have been removed; a wall between her two personalities was gone now -- if something like that had ever existed. Maybe right now there wasn't someone like Myriam still there. Or even Estelle, for that matter. She might have just merged into a completely new person -- a complete person.
It would explain a lot, but would it be a good thing? I looked back once more to see her face. Her mouth made sucking noises. It didn't look obscene -- just childish.
I returned to my thoughts. Had the two of them melded together? Or had Estelle just taken over, usurping all the fine social graces she needed in her new role of society princess? It was obvious that Myriam was not in charge. She would never have fallen for the Turd or his sick father. She would never have allowed them to make her their personal toy and company whore.
The words toy and whore made me wince -- even just thinking them.
But -- on the other hand -- she had untied my ropes, so we could escape. That must have been pure Myriam. It proved she still could withstand Estelle, did it not? I clung to that thought until I saw the first lights of Manhattan. It was about 3 a.m. when we at last drove into the parking garage under my apartment building. Erica had long since awakened. I had shared some of my musings with her. She agreed with the change, but she couldn't explain it any better than I could.
The concierge hid his surprise when we walked past him in our robes and ruined clothes. Erica and Myriam went into the shower together. I just stayed in the bathroom for a second longer, watching their vague silhouettes through the sanded glass. It looked as if they had become one. There were giggles and little sighs.
I looked at my face in the shaving mirror and watched my eyebrows knit. There was more sighing than giggling in the shower cabin by then. I turned and walked to the balcony. Yes, I thought. Erica had been adamant that she should go and get Myriam. I remembered our discussions. Definitely - she had been adamant.
I inhaled the night air of the city.
Next day it took the shit only a few hours to hit the fan. By evening I was gloriously covered by it.
The Enthwistles charged me for quite a list of things with the Providence police. Among the more serious accusations were the use of violence, assault and battery, and the threat with a lethal weapon. I also was accused of forcefully abducting Enthwistle senior, leaving him behind in a life-threatening situation. My abduction of the Turd's fiancée, the unwilling Ms. Myriam F. Collins, came only about eighth on the list, even after a charge of doing damage to the house. Almost hilarious was the item of me raping Myriam before I took her with me. More serious was the charge that I used the false pretense of business to gain entrance to the Enthwistle property. I had committed misrepresentation if not fraud by making Erica into someone she wasn't.
I knew I had it coming -- except for the rape, of course. It was typical for the old pervert to put his own misery first. It just confirmed how little he cared for his would be daughter-in-law. In the end it was just greediness on his part -- but the sort of greed that would no doubt herald my professional death.
Then Onslow surprised me. He called me into his office. I was very nervous about what he might say -- or rather what he would do. I had without a doubt blown every chance of us getting the merger. That alone would cost us dearly. It would also cost me my job and any prospect of getting anything else that was half-way decent. And on top of losing the new business for Onslow, Enthwistle would certainly try to rob our company of every penny he could lay his hands on. So when I walked in, I was prepared to get fired.
Onslow stood behind his desk. He smiled. That by itself was a surprise. But when he walked around his impressive desk to hug me, I was stunned.
"Fuck them!" he said. "Pierson, you got yourself into an amazing heap of shit and I don't know if we'll ever get you out of it -- but sure as hell we're going to try!"
He slammed into my shoulder and led me to one of his overstuffed leather club chairs. My ribs hurt. As did my shoulder.
"Whiskey?" he said, already pouring. I accepted the glass. He had poured himself a double vodka on ice. He cheered; I raised my glass, wondering.
"Tell me what happened, Bruce," he said, sipping.
I told him briefly what we had done. He never asked for details, which surprised me. He also never grunted at my more stupid actions. He didn't even deride my romantic notions, which wasn't like Onslow at all. Most of all he wanted to know what I was being charged with. And instead of looking worried, he laughed out loud at quite a few of them. Onslow isn't an easy laugher. And when he does, he has a rather repulsive likeness to Enthwistle the Elder.
He rose and once more laid a hand on my shoulder. "Don't lose sleep over it, Pierson," he said, chuckling. "Our lawyers will give them hell."
That didn't really cheer me up. "What about the new business?" I asked softly.
He just grinned some more. "Go to bed, Pierson," he said genially. "Go to bed with that amazing woman of yours and we'll do the worrying tomorrow!"
A few minutes later I was on my way home. I hadn't lost my worries. I had just added an uneasy feeling about Onslow to them. A nasty bastard had changed into "best pal" mode overnight -- it just gave me more questions to mull over. Quite a few of them, actually.
Erica wasn't there when I got home. Myriam said she'd just left. She was in her bathrobe -- her skin glowed. Her hair was damp. She had come to the door and hugged me. Her body was soft and inviting. But the day had left me wound up like a clock's spring - in fact so tight that nothing could slip past it, let alone feelings.
I kissed her on the cheek. Then I went for a beer and asked her to sit with me. I felt her gaze on me all the time. "Is something wrong, Bruce?" she asked after sitting down on the couch beside me. She leant into me. Her bare thigh showed where the robe fell open.
"Of course there is, Myr," I said, moving away from her. "Enthwistle is charging us with a million serious accusations. One of them is raping you, by the way -- before I abducted you."
She giggled at that. Then she stopped as she saw I didn't even smile. "Sorry," she mumbled. "Will the charges stick?"
I marveled at her naiveté. She couldn't be this stupid. I knew she wasn't. "Myriam," I said. "I grabbed the guy in his own house and threatened him with a gun. I abducted him. I knocked him unconscious. Then I kicked him out of a car, half naked and in the middle of nowhere. To top it off I robbed him of his favorite fuck toy and future trophy daughter-in-law. Now you ask me if they'll stick?"
I saw how she flinched at me calling her a fuck toy. "But he raped Erica," she said.
I laughed. "Yes, he did. So did you."
"Anyway," I went on. "Even if you and Erica help me deny it, it will be his powerful word against our highly compromised opinions, won't it? Plus the fact that he indeed was found half naked in the middle of the woods."
She spluttered. "Of course we will stand by you!" she exclaimed.
I silently watched her. "Thank you for that," I said, wondering where the sarcastic twinge in my voice came from. "But anyway," I went on. "It will cost me my job, whatever the judge says."
Her eyes went wide. "Why is that?" she asked.
I studied her gaze for a bit. She seemed really perplexed. Then it hit me that she probably didn't know the first thing about my involvement with Enthwistle's companies. Why would she? So I told her about the merger and how Enthwistle was involved. She laid a soft hand on mine. She looked concerned now.
"Honey," she whispered. "You should not have taken that risk for me. It cost you too much." She leant in to kiss me. The skin on my lips felt taut. I held her slightly away from me.
"If you hadn't thrown yourself at this asshole Enthwistle, I wouldn't have had to do it, would I? Why did you anyway?" My voice was harsher than I intended.
"I..." she said. Her hand went to her mouth. It trembled. I saw a tear at the corner of her eye. I pulled her to me, hugging her. She started sobbing.
"Sorry," I said. "I know -- it wasn't you. And I surely must have hurt you with what I did in Baltimore. Please forgive me. Don't cry." It must have been the pathetic last remnants of love in my heart that clung to the belief. It certainly wasn't my brain.
After a while the sobbing stopped. Her wet face touched mine. Her lips opened wide and weak. We kissed.
Over the next few days I tried to get some work done. There was obviously no need to bother about the merger anymore. I just busied myself with my department. Right now it was a pity how well it managed itself. It left me staring out of my windows a lot -- thinking.
I tried to keep in contact with Onslow, but he was gone most of the time. Erica seemed gone too. I called her on her cell phone and at her apartment -- to no avail.
Myriam surprised me that first evening with a wonderful dinner and stories about how she had spent a lovely day in the city, shopping, lunching and relaxing in the Park. Ever since we'd been home she never once mentioned a word about her time at the Enthwistle mansion.
We made love that night in the slow and easy way I had almost forgotten. Estelle seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth.
But I did use a condom.
The next day I tried getting Charlotte to tell me what Onslow was up to. Charlotte is an elegant fifty-something lady who has been Onslow's secretary for ages. We liked each other -- but obviously not enough for her to tell me anything important.
I assumed he was off conferring with the lawyers to find ways to clean up the mess I had made. Somehow it seemed quite out of character for Onslow to go this far for someone else. But then again -- he had to try and salvage his chances for the merger too, didn't he? I mused on that one. Something didn't fit. If he was busy with that, why didn't he involve me? Wouldn't he need all the information he could get out of me?
Charlotte said she was sorry for not being able to help me. I went back to stare out of my office window a bit more.
My fingers drummed me back to the present. They left tiny moist spots on the shiny surface of the conference table. Obviously I wasn't as relaxed as I thought I was. I looked at the clock. They were late.
Then the door opened and Charlotte came in. She looked immaculate. Her hair was up and her business suit was as trendy as the designer stuff on the table. So were her glasses.
"Oh?" she said, surprised at seeing me. "Didn't they tell you? I am so sorry!"
"Tell me what?" I asked, rising.
"Enthwistle withdrew all accusations," she said. Her smile lit up her face.
I just stared -- totally dumbfounded. Of course I felt an immediate relief. But at the same time there was the irritation of being so off-handedly informed.
"Oh yes," she went on. "And the merger will be signed next week."
I sagged back into my chair. I tried to recognize the emotions that flooded over me. It was humiliation -- a dull, depressing blanket that slowly sank down.
"Aren't you happy, Bruce?" she asked.
I needed two tries to get out a word. "No," I said. "Not at all."
About an hour later I was seething. I had tried to get Onslow, but he seemed to be swallowed by the earth. So were the lawyers that should have been at the meeting. Charlotte was as closed as a clam. And I don't know why I tried to get Erica, but it was just as fruitless.
Humiliation was the word. I felt degraded to the lowest level. A child, I was treated like a child. A nonentity. Of course I should be happy that the lawsuit was off and my ass saved. But what had caused that to happen? What had been the deal, what had been promised? Why hadn't I been there? Not involved? Not even informed?
Why shouldn't I know?
When Onslow at last arrived that afternoon, he was all smiles -- he was drunk too. I saw him when he came in. He stopped at Charlotte's station and I saw her talking intensely to him. Her perfectly groomed head nodded in my direction.
When I stormed out of my office, he was already on his way to see me. A huge but unfocussed smile gave him a face I didn't know. It seemed he wanted to hug me, but I stepped back. "What the fuck is going on, Onslow?" I asked, rather loudly.
He grabbed my shoulder and pushed me towards my office. "Great news, Pierson!" he slurred. "Damn fucking wonderful news."
We were in my office. He closed the door -- it took him two tries to grab the knob. I guess he was not sober enough to have a real conversation. He slumped into a chair.
"It'sss all over, Pierson." He chuckled, almost to himself. "We have sshem by the balls. All ssharsshes dropped. And the merssher done!"
I stood, looking down on him. I said nothing.
"Pierson," Onslow went on. "They sshold out for a sshong!"
"Why would they do that, Onslow?" I asked. His drunken ranting made me lose the focus of my rage. I knew it would be useless to grill him in the state he was in. On the other hand...
The door opened. Charlotte's face peeped around it. "Is all well, Bruce? He is drunk. Let's get him home."
"All is fine, Charlotte," I said. I shoved her back into the corridor and closed the door. I had the feeling she was protecting him. Could she be afraid he might tell me things I wasn't supposed to hear?
"Onslow?" I said. He looked up, grinning. It seemed the alcohol was just now really hitting him. He murmured. I went down on my haunches to be closer. "What happened, Onslow? Why wasn't I there?"
He grinned again. "No need, Piersshon! No need for you there. Girlzzz did it all. Damn fucking great girlzzz."
"Girls, Onslow? What girls? What are you talking about?"
He snickered. "By the goddamn balls," he went on. "Enssshwizzle, Daniels and the whole fucking lot!"
"How?" I almost yelled. I grabbed his lapels, trying to get his drifting attention. "How, Onslow? What did you do? What about the girls?"
The door flew open and Onslow's giant black chauffeur entered. His deep voice rumbled. "It is all right, Mr. Pierson. Let me get him. I'll take him home. Come, Mr. Onslow. Been a long day."
The giant picked up Onslow and led him out onto the floor. Charlotte stood waiting. Her eyes were on him -- then on me. There was concern in them.
"What is going on, Charlotte?" She smiled and turned away.
We sat at the kitchen counter, Myriam and I. I had just come home. The beer can in my hand was already half empty. She had poured herself a white wine.
"Where is Erica, Myriam?"
"I don't know. She said she had a business meeting this morning."
"You see her a lot, don't you?" I asked.
"I like her," she said with a smile. "She is a wonderful person, Bruce. A real friend. I am glad you met her so I could get to know her. You like her a lot too, don't you?"
I held her eyes until they shifted.
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
"I don't know," I said. "You tell me."
Her eyes widened. I thought I saw extra color flush into her face. "Ehm...," she then said. "I, eh, don't know what you mean? Wrong?" She tried to get up. I held up my hand. "Don't leave. We have to talk."
"But dinner..." Her voice trailed away.
"Talk to me, Myriam," I said. "If you love me, tell me what is going on with you and Erica and Onslow. You know him, don't you?"
Her head shook in denial. Then her lips trembled. She brought her hands to her face, sobbing.
I wasn't moved. "Stop this, Myriam. And don't give me that Estelle shit either. It was you I saw at the mansion, not her."
The sobbing stopped at once. Her fingers opened to allow her eyes to peep through.
I rose, the beer was forgotten. "Myriam. Maybe you really were sick when we met and married and even through our marriage. Maybe it was all true, with the rape and the personality split. You should have told me up front, though, and you didn't. You left me in the dark. Ah well...in the end I guess that was what our divorce really was about."
Myriam flinched as I mentioned the divorce. She wanted to protest, but I went on. "Anyhow...let's say maybe there was a Myriam who was unable to stop her second personality from running around on her. But something changed after our divorce, didn't it? Or maybe even before?"
Myriam followed me with her eyes. Her fingers were strangling each other. She looked very nervous. Her head slowly shook left and right. But she said nothing.