| False Profit
After five years of marriage, Priscilla Truesdale Coleman realized that she was tired of being pampered.
In the days when she had been Prissie Truesdale, she had been a rather good paralegal, living in an apartment alone and sleeping with a succession of men, though not a very long succession. She thought of herself as normal, and she expected to settle down with one man and raise children with him, and perhaps work on and off over the years as it became desirable or possible.
That had changed when she was twenty-three. Her widowed mother had married into a minor (which is to say un-moneyed) branch of a wealthy family, and had always taken this fact much more seriously than her late father had. Priscilla had been repeatedly introduced to members of local society at events which neither she nor her mother could really afford to attend.
At twenty-three she caught the eye of William Warner Coleman, of the legal and financial Colemans. Little Willie, as he was called to distinguish him from his uncle, was a stockbroker with a great appetite for detail and planning. He gave Priscilla several elegant and expensive evenings out before asking her to marry him.
She was quite startled at this coming from someone who had known her only six weeks, and had not yet even hinted at taking her to bed. But she was feeling overwhelmed by this unaccustomed glamour, and she said yes.
William Coleman almost instantly began to plan their wedding, to take place in two more months at the end of May. Priscilla barely got to say a word about it, since everything was going to be far more elaborate than what was in her occasional daydreams. It was a magnificent spectacle, and Priscilla's mother was supremely happy. Priscilla was too dazzled to know what to think of it herself.
Little Willie spent the evening with Priscilla two or three times a week in April and May, but at no time did they spend the night under the same roof -- nor even a quick and dirty half-hour behind a locked bedroom door.
So when Priscilla entered the bridal suite in the hotel in St. Croix, several hours after the wedding, she discovered three things. Firstly, that William Warner Coleman at twenty-six had had no experience of women. Secondly, that he had presumed her to be virginal, but with a little acting on her part he did not really notice the difference. Thirdly, that "Little Willie" was more accurate a name than she liked.
That last Priscilla could have taken in her stride, so to speak, but Willie was also not interested very often, not even in the kissing and cuddling and fondling which she wanted as the mortar between his bricks. When they returned to the large house which he had purchased, with its acre or so of ground, Priscilla found that there was little for her to do -- or even to be allowed to do.
She had accepted with equanimity his decision that she not work, since there was a certain appeal to not having to and he certainly did not need the income. She did convince him to not have a full staff of servants; she talked the cook down to only coming in for dinner, and the maid to only being there twice a week.
After a while, she wanted to take on all those duties herself, but Little Willie insisted that doing so would be improper and undignified.
Shopping for supplies and clothing and so forth was permitted to her, but only within the broad outlines which Willie had planned out for her. (In truth, his plans were worked out in very small scale, but he did not notice when Priscilla ignored them.)
But going to shop was not permitted. Willie explained that the charge accounts were good at every store in town, or any nearby one, and anything she was unsure about wanting could be sent on approval.
Priscilla found that Willie loved to go over all the charges and bills, adding everything and looking for errors, quibbling at times over the prices paid for useful items but ignoring those of luxuries. Especially things for Priscilla. But this made it impossible to keep any sort of secret from him except by paying cash, and her cash was limited to $50 of household money.
If she wanted to leave the house to do charity work, that was certainly in the best tradition of the best families. But Priscilla found that the women running the local charities resented someone so young and attractive, and someone who actually knew something about the people who were to be uplifted.
Her old friends were for the most part still working at regular jobs, and those who had married and had (or planned) children were only irregularly available during the day.
Raising children was something that Priscilla knew would occupy her time in a very worthwhile endeavor. But Little Willie did not want any, and his infrequent interest made pregnancy unlikely anyway.
To sum it all up, the world of Priscilla Truesdale Coleman was elegant, expensive, and boring. It grew on her that what she spent on luxuries did not matter to Willie because she was one of his luxuries; pretty but not useful and mostly kept on the shelf.
Into this tired Eden came the tall figure of James Parham. Willie invited him at first with a few others to one of the monthly dinner parties he held for business associates. After a little while, his presence became more frequent.
Priscilla found James Parham to be witty, interesting, handsome, and not quite trustworthy. He seemed to know quite a bit about the business world and which way it would jump next, but he was always skirting the edge of chicanery there and hedonism elsewhere.
Priscilla found him very intriguing, partly for his dubious qualities, but had never considered moving him out of the realm of occasional fantasies. Until the evening when he and Willie and Priscilla were dining alone and Willie was summoned to the telephone. James Parham leaned forward then and said in a low voice: "I want very much to go to bed with you."
Priscilla froze, and stared at her plate, and finally said in an equally low tone: "No."
But the seed had been planted to grow the forbidden fruit. That night Priscilla thought about having Parham's body against hers and then on hers, and having him in her. This fantasy was more extensive than any she had experienced since she was a teenager, but perhaps fantasy was all it would have been if Willie had not ignored her when she tried to act it out with him.
Another week went by until Priscilla whispered to James Parham as he left after dinner, "Call me tomorrow."
When he did, at one in the afternoon of the next day, she said to him: "I want money from you for having sex with me."
There was a long pause. "I would think that you would be able to buy anything you would ever want."
"It's not money as money, it's money as freedom. I can barely leave this place, and I'm not allowed to do anything on my own if I do. Everything is charged and in Willie's name. I can only have fifty dollars in cash at a time, and I have to show where even that is spent. I can't have a damned candy bar without having it show up in the monthly bills! Nothing here is me."
"So you want to be paid in cash. How much do you want?"
"Well... I saw in the newspaper about a prostitute charging fifty dollars. I don't know if that's standard."
"I would have no idea either, I must admit. But surely you don't price yourself that low. I can't see you as a fifty-buck whore."
"No. No, I think I'm worth ten times that much. I want five hundred dollars from you. Even if it's a trivial amount beside what the Colemans have, it will be the first money in five years that is really mine!"
"You may be underpricing yourself even at five hundred. I intend to find out -- and I'll tell you afterward if you are. I am going to be in California on business a few days from now, and won't be back for a while. Shall we set an appointment for a month from now?"
"Yes, April the 23rd. That's a Friday. The cleaning people will be in the day before. The fourth Friday of the month Willie comes home late, at six. The cook won't be here until five. It might be best if you leave before then."
"Certainly. I will be at your door at noon that day with five hundred dollars in cash."
"One other thing... I am still a little bit unsure if I want to do this. I want to be able to back out until the day before."
"This is reasonable. On the days when I am not here, my answering service will take messages for me. Just say 'Project cancelled.' You had better use some other name to sign it with..."
"Truesdale it is. I assume it has some significance to you."
And she hung up nervously.
Over the next month Priscilla was given to mood swings and repeatedly tried to coax Little Willie into bedroom athletics. She succeeded twice, but she made him so nervous in turn that he made her spend a day in a doctor's office testing for some illness. There was nothing physical to be found, of course.
On Friday, April 23rd, Priscilla returned to her bedroom after Little Willie had left for the day and she took a long bath with perfumed bath-beads then talcumed herself and put on her sexiest and fanciest lingerie, and covered that with a long housecoat. When the front door chimed at noon, she walked to the door as a perfection of odor and cleanliness and desirability.
And so it began.
James Parham greeted her with a light and delicate, almost innocent, kiss. They walked hand in hand to her bedroom. She broke from him and turned to face him when she crossed the portal. He reached into his suit jacket and gave her a packet of twenty-dollar bills. She paused long enough to see that there were twenty-five of them and to put them in the jewelry box which was almost the only thing left given to her by her father.
Then Priscilla walked to James Parham again and he raised his arms to her. They undressed slowly. He took the long zipper down her housecoat to find her warm sweet responsive body within. Her hands cast his jacket and shirt and tie to the side, one by one.
In time she wore only red silk panties and he wore nothing at all. They stood then for minutes, kissing and touching and tantalizing each other. Then James picked her up and placed her in the center of the bed.
He kissed his way down her, across her stomach, and hooked his hands into the elastic of her panties. When his lips bent between her legs she gasped in anticipation. That was a thing which she had been denied for five long years now; Willie was even less inclined toward experiments than toward plain vanilla intercourse. James spent only a few minutes there, but the touch, the promise, excited her more than she could ever recall.
It was not clear if it was the long semi-deprivation, the taste of the forbidden, the skill at loving of the man in her bed, the growth of her physical appetites in these five years, or all of these. But by the time they ended three hours later, after her body had arched under him time and again, Priscilla knew that it was well she had been paid in advance, because she would not now have remembered to ask for it.
They dressed then and talked and just before he left at 4:30, James said to her. "You did underprice yourself at five hundred dollars. Here is another ten percent, for a side profit. Just your extra effort amounts to a fifty-buck whore."
And she took the fifty-dollar bill, though she was puzzled at his comment. That also went into the jewelry box.
Priscilla took a fast shower now and changed clothes again (and sheets) in time to greet the cook at five. The shower helped her physical exhaustion somewhat, her emotional not at all.
At ten after six, William Warner Coleman came bouncing in, chattering about his day as usual. Priscilla listened with only half an ear, thinking that after this day she felt even more trapped in this velvet prison than before and concentrating on the five hundred and fifty of her own -- her OWN -- money sitting in the jewelry case.
When dinner was ready, Willie turned to her and said: "Say, did Jim Parham come by here today?"
She stopped in shock. "Yes. How did you know?"
"Well, a month back he borrowed five hundred dollars from me. He said it was for a short-term deal he knew about, and he was going to get it back to me today. Ten per cent side profit in a month, and in cash so it's off the books. Not much money, really, but you have to love a guy who cuts you in on deals like that. Did he leave the five-fifty?"
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