Chapter Ten: Surprise
My sleep was restless. All I could imagine was Damon’s dark-brown eyes pooling into me. The agitation of my restless sleep caused me to accidentally retaliate against Pudding by flicking him off the bed.
A little while later, I got out of my hot steamy shower and walked through my apartment whilst towel-drying my curly brown hair. When I finished flicking the water off my hair, I stopped in front of the mirror and peered critically at my appearance. I had a light tan, but it was nothing it once was. My light-brown eyes were no longer as radiant as they once were, as they were marked by the dark circles beneath them. My curves were still in an hourglass shape and I had a flat stomach. I could never work it into a six-pack no matter how hard I exercised in the past. My legs were muscular from all the running around I did. I had a decent bum, one that was still perky and round enough to be held. My breasts were slightly larger than average, but still perky because of all the years I had looked after them with supportive bras.
Not much had changed over the years, in neither my appearance nor my love life. I was the only one to see my naked self in such a long time. I suppose I no longer saw myself as womanly or desirable. But after the last few days, and after Damon calling me beautiful, I felt compelled to face the truth. Would a woman like me seem attractive to him? Pudding jumped onto my bed. He was the only male in my life and had been for many years.
“Would someone take me even with a fat cat like you,” I smiled, brushing my hand over his orange fur and scratching over his right ear.
I looked through my clothing for something nice to wear. I always wore a pencil skirt and a blouse. Today I wanted to attempt to look beautiful. I found a dark-blue dress I hadn’t worn in a long time, which clung to my curves. It was a work dress, but I felt womanly in it. I wanted to grab Damon’s eyes when I met with him at lunch for his modelling.
I left my wavy hair down, giving it a brush over and combing some gel through it, just to keep it contained and shiny. I was excited to go to work today, which was something I hadn’t felt for a long time. My heart fluttered from the moment I stepped out of my apartment all the way till lunch. Not even Debra’s remarks could bring me back.
I usually found it amusing when Cassidy called in sick. She always sounded blatantly hung-over. But I was disappointed when she called to say she wasn’t coming in today. I wanted to tell her everything that had happened last night, to tell her that Damon was someone I did want to continue seeing. I was attracted to him; he was confident and funny, and last night I saw a far more sensitive side to him, one that I could relate to.
After the morning meeting, I kept looking at the time in anticipation of lunch hour, when we would be meeting for the photo-shoot. The day went by far more slowly than usual, but finally the time came. I met Debra in front of the photography room, a level down from us. Issobelle was already there. I noticed another male in a maroon suit having his makeup and hair fixed and I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion. After looking around the room, I noted the absence of a certain someone.
“Where’s Damon?” I asked Debra.
She looked at me with very little interest before a spark came to her eyes. “Oh, he didn’t tell you?” She left that comment to hang in the air for a few seconds before continuing. “Issobelle has known this model for a while and wanted to do this favor for him, so he’s going to be our cover shot. It was beneficial for us to go this way. I realized I didn’t have Damon’s number, so I had Cassidy call him and inform him this morning.”
“Why didn’t you ask me to do that?” I asked, trying to cover my annoyance. It was always me who called the workers and oversaw the cancelations, so why was this time the only exception?
“Well, I just didn’t think of you.”
Debra looked out of the corner of her eye to Issobelle, who had begun taking photos. Debra looked at me again, her eyes striking like a snake. “Your dress is a little low-cut, wouldn’t you say? Slightly inappropriate for work, maybe?”
She rested her hand on my shoulder, giving me a slight nod. Her expression was as patronizing as her tone. I boiled with rage and held her glare strongly. She walked away without saying anything else.
My dress was not low-cut and only showed slight skin. But her words had the desired effect: I was embarrassed and self-conscious. I felt pathetic that I attempted to appear more attractive to Damon. She knew what I was doing, and she exposed me for the fool I was. I had let myself be vulnerable. I sighed heavily, looking to the ground. What was I doing?
I waited impatiently for the photo-shoot to end. The flashing of the cameras was the only distraction I had from my brooding thoughts. Afterwards, my work took me longer than usual. I couldn’t concentrate, and, much later, I found myself slumped in my chair, my head and arms across my desk in defeat. There was no one in the office but me. I had finished my tasks fifteen minutes prior to my collapse. I just couldn’t bring myself to leave. I was internally beating myself up for being hurt, like a bewildered young schoolgirl who had been stood up. It had always just been business, so why did I read so much into it? Why did I have to blur those lines?
Finally, I made my way out to a taxi and began my journey home. My head rolled against the seat as I craned my head. We were about to drive past the café and bookstore that Damon and I had visited the night before. My eyebrows rose in surprise as I looked through the window to see Damon with a dark-haired woman with tanned skin. She was beautiful and they were laughing over something.
It seemed like the car slowed as I watched the scene. Perhaps this was guidance from my father. Coincidently I had driven past at this exact time to see Damon for who he really was.
I felt humiliated that I had thought of it as any more than what it really was. He was just an Escort. He always had been.
After a spell of sobbing I reminded myself of who I was. I was an independent and strong woman. I had never required the interests of men before, and I still didn’t now. Tensions went high at work as Cassidy excitedly brought him up, only to be quickly assured by me that there was nothing between us. She questioned me about our Friday date, forcing me to laugh. There would be no such thing.
I found Thursday night I could hardly sleep. And on Friday morning, I woke even earlier than usual. I put my sweat gear on and ran around a few blocks, releasing my pent up energy with exercise. I got back to my apartment and looked around the tidy rooms, suddenly struck by the emptiness. I looked at the clock. I had nothing to do or amuse me. Unable to take a day of sitting around, I got dressed for work. I wasn’t confident I still wanted the day off even if Debra permitted it. I was at my office desk two hours before everyone else, with the exception of Debra. The reality was slowly dawning on me as I stared at my wall clock. Was my work the only thing in my life?
The other workers slowly ventured in. Cassidy was sending me worried looks, and she seemed to be watching the clock herself. I had not spoken to her about the humiliation I had endured. I made my way to the coffee machine in the cafeteria. Coffee in hand, I moved to the large windows at the back of the room. I sighed heavily as I leaned my head against the cold glass.
“Clover,” Damon’s voice startled me from behind. I turned to him, then immediately dropped my gaze to the floor. I didn’t want to stare into his beautiful dark-brown eyes that I was so easily pulled under by. I had to protect myself, stand on my own. He took a step toward me. “Why did you come to work today? I thought we had agreed I would pick you up today?”
“I saw you with a woman,” I said. “A client...I don’t know who she was. I don’t really care. It is after all the line of work you’re in. At the coffee place you took me to. I just realized it was really odd for me to hang out with my escort afterwards, you know?”
He studied me for a moment. At first I thought he might have been angry. He placed his hands in his pockets and dipped his head, exhaling heavily. “That was my sister.”
“What?” I said, now embarrassed by my accusation. But how did I know it wasn’t a cover-up? I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion. I was a twenty-eight-year-old woman, yet I fluttered around him as if he were my first love. Every move he made changed me as well.
“That was my sister. That store we had coffee in I remembered from my childhood. My mother took me often, but I never knew which neighborhood it was in. When we drove past I realized it was the same, only revamped. So I took my sister.”
I stared at him for a moment, resting my hand on the window ledge behind me. I looked at my mug in mortification. Why did I even care? It’s not like he was mine; we had only just met. “Oh. I’m sorry,” I said. “What an idiot I must look.”
“You could have just asked me,” Damon replied. “I’m a bit hurt that you would think of me like that.”
I nodded my head in agreement. It wasn’t fair that I accused him of dating other women because of his job. We hadn’t even been on a date yet.
“You’re right, and I am sorry, I just...I don’t know what to think around you,” I blurted out loud. After I said it, I shook my head and laughed at myself. “That is really embarrassing.”
“That’s not embarrassing, Clover. To be honest, I’m surprised I came here after you stood me up. I kind of just ended up here,” he said as he looked at the elevator. Behind him I saw Cassidy. Her head stretched past the counter so she could watch us. When Damon looked at her she ducked quickly back, as if minding her own business. He turned to me and we both stood for a second in uneasy silence. We both seemed so uncertain. When we first met we joked and teased one another. Now we were revealing a far more vulnerable side.
“Are you free this weekend?”
“Yea, why?” I asked.
“I want to take you somewhere. My sister has a business proposal for you. I showed her some of your writing, and she was really impressed,” Damon said quickly. He flushed under my surprised expression.
“You told your sister about me?”
“Well yes, about your writing, and you. She wants to speak with you personally. So if you come with me this weekend, it would be like a little holiday. And you bailed on me today, so you kind of owe me at least one day.”
“What kind of business proposal?”
“I don’t know the full details of it all, but she was impressed by your writing. Clover, I would really love it if you could come with me. It’s a little distance from here, but you can go home any time you want.” He seemed nervous. It was a big request and my earlier accusations probably didn’t help him gather the confidence to ask. “I know this is a bit forward, but I think you would really enjoy yourself. And I mean, why not, right?”
I pondered on it for a moment. Why not? I looked back out the window that I had been staring through as I sipped my coffee. Only moments ago I was questioning my boring, dull life. I had only work to go to. His words pinched at me.
“Okay,” I agreed. “But only because I did a runner on you today.”
His face lightened as he smiled at me. “Oh Pookie, that makes me so happy,” he jokingly said.
“No pet names,” I snapped with a smile. And within seconds the tension that was so heavy in the air lifted and we were back to our usual selves. Neither of us knew one another well, and yet in one another’s presence we were so comfortable. Damon has made me question many things in my life that I hadn’t dared face in such a long time. I could do this for him, could spend two days of my life with him.
“I will pick you up at six in the morning,” he said slipping out of the cafeteria. He paused at the door. “And Clover, bring your bikini.”
My eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Why would I need a bikini in this weather? Before I could ask he had already left, greeting Cassidy on the way out. I stood there alone, holding my mug. It was so odd for me to not have complete control of the situation. Yet as much as it was new to me, I loved the thrill of not knowing what would happen next.