Chapter 1 - Anna
I looked at my reflection in the mirror. That dress I bought last Monday was awesome and fitted me perfectly. The black velvet midi dress hugged my curvy silhouette. I smiled with approval. The dress didn’t make me look fat, nor accentuated my broad hips.
Damn my Mediterranean genes for that!
Why couldn’t I be like the other girls wearing eight or ten? Every time I was going shopping, I was disappointed not finding the right size of the clothes I liked! I was instead wearing eleven or lately mostly twelve. I should be more careful of what I’m eating, I thought.
With that, I put on my black polished Geox heels. There were uniquely the ones I could walk 10 cm high and not fall! The heels were large enough to properly keep me steady. Yeah, I thought, another one problem of being fat, you cannot walk steadily with stiletto heels!
I thought again about the dress which was on sale in Monsoon. When after work I passed by the store that day, I saw they had up to 70% sales. I didn’t hesitate to enter and have a look. I was so excited to find one left in my size! I had also found a silver scarf and the taupe purse that I will carry today with me to the Club.
I was earning well working at the bank, but I had to make economies as I was supporting my family back in Greece. Especially at this time with all the financial problems the country was facing, it was inevitable not to send money to my mother and brother. My father, however, didn’t seem to have any financial problems. Nor that I had asked him either.
My parents divorced when I was 10 years old. My mother had earned guardianship. With my brother, I was visiting our father as the Court decision stipulated. Honestly, I couldn’t say I had any affection for my father. Not after enduring all the insults, he had made to our mother during the divorce and the accusations of his mother that we were not his children. I never wanted to have any relations with my father’s family after I had legally become an adult.
At 18 years old I had left Greece and came to London for studies. Studies that my mother’s parents paid for. My father never asked who would pay for the University. He merely sent some money to my bank account every month. And this because I was certain his lawyer advised him that way to avoid any future request to pay the school.
What a bastard!
On the other hand, my mother never asked him for alimony for her. Too proud of that. Too proud to seek money from her daughter also, but I was sending her money every month to cover most of the expenses. I was also sending money to my brother. His wife recently lost her job. Despite continuing to work at the hotel, his miserable salary decreased 15% the last year and they have a little girl of three years old to take care of.
I looked once more to the mirror and swayed my head to clear my overwhelming thoughts. It’s Saturday night. It’s a fun night and as always with Helen and Hiran we are going out for a dance. With Helen, we are sharing the apartment, and she was also my roommate at the University. We have stuck well together, so after University we had decided to both lease an apartment as the rents are quite expensive in London. She is also working in a bank, an American bank as she is American. She had graduated from law school. She didn’t want to go to an American University and wanted to live a European University experience. Or to be more precise, she didn’t want to wait until she was 21 years old to drink alcohol without risking being caught by the police. So she had chosen London.
I sighed with disappointment. How much I would like to be like Helen. She has the perfect body and is making no effort for this. She is devouring everything she desires, she is not doing any sport and she wears six sizes and 85B cups. I am envious of that! I am wearing 95C and when I wanted to buy the fancy underwear line Helen is wearing, I had to buy a 100D cup and there were no pants in my size! This sucked, but as Hiran had said to me, that brand was made for anorexic models and not for real women.
With Hiran, we met in the University Library. He is the King of the geeks! An IT freak who can hack whatever you want whenever you want. He helped us so many times with our laptops and had trained us on all the Microsoft office tools and other software, something that I am very grateful to him now that I am working in a bank and am using a lot of databases. He is English with Indian origins. His parents came from India 40 years ago and now they opened their restaurant. They are pressuring him to marry someone. They have even tried arranging him with a girl once from India, but he had cut them off, telling them that he will marry the woman he will choose. He loves his parents a lot, and he cannot find the courage to tell them that it is not a girl he wants to marry, but a man! If he does so, they will not only put him out of their house but also stop speaking to him. He would be a dead person for them. He couldn’t bear that. So, he is trying to find an excuse every time to avoid the subject for the time being.
Today we are going out to the famous Emerald Club, a Private Club where you can enter only if you are a member or you have received an invitation. Unfortunately, being a member is subject to a generous annual subscription that no one of us can afford to pay. But Mary, the fourth of our group, is engaged with John Green, the CFO of Whyte Investments, one of the most valuable, richest and powerful Investment Companies in Europe and maybe in the world. He is a member of this Club. Every year, the Club issues some invitations to their members, in case they want to invite people who are not members yet and maybe they could become. Thus, when Mary told us about the Club, Helen, of course, asked her if she could introduce us there. Mary asked her fiancée if he had any invitations left. John is so in love with her he cannot deny her anything. And Mary cannot deny us anything either as we are like sisters. She was my schoolmate in the business studies at the university and with Helen, we went everywhere in London. Thence, here we are now having the invitations ready to go to the Club.
Helen suddenly opens my door without knocking, making me jump over “Anna, are you ready? Let’s go”.
“Are you sure you are not Greek? Didn’t your parents teach you to knock at the door before opening it? You remind me of my mother”, I yell at her.
She starts laughing. “Well, yeah, but I have Alzheimer’s, so I constantly omit what I have been taught”, she winks her eye.
I smile at her because she knows I cannot be angry at her.
“Yes, I’m ready. Let’s go!“, I take my purse, and we leave my room and the apartment.
Cameron, Helen’s boyfriend, came to pick us up in his car. They have been together for the last five months. Helen has the unpleasant habit of changing her boyfriend every year. So that she will not get bored, she says. Too bad for her because Cameron seems to have real feelings for her and he is a really good guy. They are working together in the same bank. She is a legal assistant, and he is an auditor. He is also handsome, tall with dark hair and blue eyes.
We approach the Mayfair district where Emerald Club is situated. Cameron parks the car in a parking building and we walk down Mayfair. Outside of the old classic Mayfair four-storey building, Hiran is waiting for us. We exchange air kisses and walk the stairs of the entrance. A man with a black suit at the entrance welcomes us and asks for our member cards. Helen shows him our invitations. He takes them, puts them into a scanner machine and a lady with a black suit sitting next to him prints four cards from a machine connected to a laptop and gives them to us.
“You just show the cards to the entry of the Club downstairs and the waitress for your drinks. All the expenses are taken care of by Mr Green”, the lady informs us.
We thank her and enter. We give our coats to the vestiaires and the ladies also ask for our cards.
“Awesome”, Helen is excited. “No need to have a shit of paper with us that we might lose. Everything is marked electronically”.
“Yes”, I agree with her, “It’s cool!“.
The principal entrance of the Club is covered with a red carpet. Inside there are two ornate mirrors on each side of the walls and a marble console with golden flower details all over. On top of the consoles, there is a precious China vase filled with fresh flowers. On the decorative ceilings, there are flower details all over the corners and in the middle, there is a magnificent golden chandelier with crystals. On the right and left there are the entrances for the restaurant and right in front of us the stairs.
I do not know what there is on the other floors of the Club, but the night Club is downstairs. As far as I understood, it was the only thing we had access to. So, we go joyfully down the stairs. There is the entrance guarded by two giant bodybuilder men in black suits, who take our cards, scan them with a machine and give them back to us. Next, they open the door and wish us to enjoy our night.
Ten years in London, we have been to many Clubs, but the luxury and the fine taste of what we see when we enter is beyond our expectations! It is dark, but without being totally dark. It has silver and light blue details in the right places to give light inside without needing to put extra lights on. It is not very big, but you couldn’t say it is crowded. The placing of the banquets, the stands, the bar, the DJ stage, everything has been disposed of in such a way to facilitate the circulation of the people and thus you don’t have the impression that it is crowded. It seems to be big without really being.
The DJ stage is right in front of us on the backside. In between, there are three rows of banquettes going downstairs. Then, at the sides, you have the rows of the stands and finally on the bottom and middle the dancing stage. The bar is just behind us next to the entrance. Very practical. You enter, grab your drink and go inside. And is what we do.
I order my favourite Martini. Classic and not so strong. After all, I can’t handle strong alcohol. Everything stronger than Martini can instantly make me drunk. We pick our drinks and walk inside chatting and laughing. We find a free banquette and sit, but not for a long time. We are rapidly on the dancing floor.
I love dancing! I think it is a way for me to put off all the work pressure and also to empty my head. I am thinking about nothing but dancing, moving my body to the beat of the music, following the rhythm.
We were dancing, sitting on the banquette, drinking and chatting and then dancing again. After some hour, I sit in the banquette alone and search for a waitress to order my third Martini for the night and my last. I couldn’t stand a fourth to drink without being a little more than high.
A waitress comes over to the banquette and before asking her for a Martini, she places one on the table as well as a paper note saying the drink had been offered to me. Before having the chance to ask her from whom, she turns her back and leaves. I pick the paper up and open it. Inside there is a card, like the one they had given us upstairs. In the paper is written with a beautiful clear handwriting
“Dance with me. Room Amethyst. 3rd floor”.
What the hell is that? I look around, but I cannot see someone staring at me. At that instant, Helen, Cameron and Hiran join me in the banquette.
"You ordered a Martini for yourself and didn’t think of ordering a drink for us! Egoist!“, Helen turns to me.
“I didn’t order, it was offered to me”, I feel awkward.
“Offered?”, all the three ask at the same time.
“Yes, offered. I do not know from whom. This was with the drink”, I give Helen the card with the paper. Helen reads it loud enough to hear all of us four.
“It sucks badly. Don’t go!” I hear Hiran saying.
“Oh, shut up Hiran!” Helen scolds him, “Don’t listen to him. He never did anything exciting in his life!“.
“Mmmm”, exclaims Hiran and puts his tongue out to Helen.
“This is not thrilling, but dangerous! What if he is a psychopath serial killer? There are many out there”, Hiran explains.
“I do not think so. It’s mysterious, not dangerous. Here in the Club, you are secure. Don’t you see all the electronic cards you use in everything you do? They know what you have done and I bet there are hidden cameras everywhere”, she seems confident.
“I do not know. It looks weird to me”, says Cameron.
“To me too!” I agree. ”Why send me a card to join him in a room, where we will be alone, the two of us and he is not coming here to introduce himself?“.
“Because it’s mysterious and magical and exciting”, replies Helen. “Have you not read any erotic book!? It’s like that. It’s a game”.
“Sorry Helen, but as much as I like reading this kind of book, I do not like performing weird things in bed”, I am sure I blush as I feel embarrassed.
“You don’t perform the basics in the bed to start! But really until when do you think of staying a virgin? Until you die?“, she comments wryly.
“Maybe, maybe not. It’s my business!” I reply, obviously offended.
Well yes, I’m a virgin by choice. Well not exactly by choice, but let’s say I have been raised by my mother that I should give my virginity to the man who will become my husband. As far as I haven’t found that one I have been left on the self! Now the men after one or two dates are expecting to bed you and when you tell them that you are still a virgin at twenty-eight years old they do not call you again! Announcing them that you have AIDS, syphilis or other sexually transmitted disease makes them less afraid than telling them you are a virgin. It’s worse than having cholera! As a result, I had resigned myself to going out on dates and avoiding every man who comes to talk to me.
“If he had come and introduced himself, would you have danced with him if he would have proposed to you?“, Helen asks me, raising her eyebrow.
“No, I don’t think so, and you know why”, I reply disappointedly to her.
“That’s why! It is possible he understood that and tries to play a game with you”.
At that moment, a waitress comes and gives me another paper.
“Wait!” I call her when she turned to leave again. “Who is sending these?“.
“A man at the bar”, she replies.
We all look at the bar, but it’s very far to see who is sitting there.
“Sorry one more question”, I hear Helen addressing the waitress, “Is the man handsome?“.
“Why are you asking?“, Cameron asks Helen very angrily and full of jealousy.
“I’m not asking for me, I’m asking for Anna”.
The waitress laughs and winks her eye to me “Oh yes, he is remarkably attractive! You are very lucky!“.
“What’s the Amethyst room?" I curiously ask.
“On the third floor”, Helen explains when we see the waitress’s face a little confused.
“Oh, on the third floor there are the private rooms. Some accommodate six persons, and they can go up to twenty persons. It’s for private events”.
“Not kinky things I hope?” I worryingly ask her.
“Oh no, no. There is no such thing happening here”, she replies reassuringly.
Helen and I thank her before she leaves. I open the second paper. It is written,
“Do not be afraid. I will not hurt you!”