A friend gave me this challenge. He gave it to another friend too. It was about writing a story with a certain setting. You can read it here, the setting that is. And you can read my friend's story here.
I really had no ideas at first and then suddenly this came to me. It is not really a story, just an encounter. I kind of like it, though.
And I haven't posted an original Janice story on the blog since 12 June. Have you been waiting?
'A nice figure,' I thought, as I looked in the mirror, 'nice and slender.' I believed my nice, light and green, summerdress would fit me well. It was a little daring, that is true, with thin spaghetti straps, leaving the shoulders bare, following the form of my body although not overly short.
I felt terribly provocative, wearing no bra underneath the thin fabric of my dress. And besides my knickers it was the only garment I wore. This was appropriate for what I was about to do, it was the right thing to wear when taking on the world and challenge it.
'Who am I fooling?' I thought and stared at my blushing face. Some women look sexy in whatever they wear. They can attract attention wearing a burqa. But Ms Prim would not fool anyone. I was an impostor. I knew that but I had to do this.
I turned from the mirror with a beating heart, my breast full of anger, anxiety, fear and apprehension. I put my feet in my black ballerinas and hung the bag on my shoulder, and went out.
My legs were trembling as I walked out into the sunlight on my mission. I held my head up high as I passed the street and tried my best to be proud. Inside my head I saw a frightened squirrel scurrying for cover.
No one noticed. No one saw that prudishness dared to dare the world to look at her. I was just one in the crowd.
I ended up at a café, at a small round table on the pavement just outside the entrance. I had ordered tea and the waitress brought it. I thought that wine had been better. I didn't want to find comfort in the wine, no, I didn't even like wine but it would have looked better.
My fingers felt a little numb as I pulled the book from my bag to put it on the table in front of me. I stopped and read the title, as if I wanted to make sure it was the right one: The Story of O. I turned it away from me so that anyone who approached the table could read it.
Then I waited.
I waited. And I waited. My teacup was almost empty. No one seemed to look at me or the book. A woman gave it a glance and turned away. I felt my heart beat as if I had committed some unacceptable sin by sitting there with that book in front of me.
I imagined I was sitting there to provoke a man to talk to me. But the truth is that most men are not interested in books, or even know how to read one. I sighed. Men look at women, but not at women like me. A silly book wouldn't change that.
My teacup was empty and I felt stupid and weary and was just about to rise and go home when a shadow fell on me. I looked up and was almost blinded by the sunlight that seem to shine from behind the head of the man standing in front of me. The light formed a corona around his head.
'Is this seat taken?' he asked politely.
'No, by no means, no, not at all,' I replied nervously.
The man sat down and I could, at last, see his face. He was dressed in a suit that was far too dark for the bright weather. He looked like something from an old film although he was not old himself.
He gave me a quick glance, smiled, and turned to call the waitress. While I stared at him he ordered a glass of wine and then pulled from his jacket a small and well read book and placed it on the table.
As he placed his book on the table I saw that my book was provocatively close to his place and felt an urge to move it closer to myself. But that would have been too obvious. I didn't move.
He put the book in front of him in a way so that I had to read the title upside down. It was a worn paperback copy of Justine by the Marquis de Sade. My heart beat harder.
I looked up and found myself staring into his eyes. I averted my gaze and felt how I blushed.
'Do you like it?' he said.
'What?' I blurted out, taken by surprise, 'like what?'
'The ordeals of O,' he said, his voice calm.
I looked up and saw that his eyes were grey. He looked at me and I think he smiled.
'I haven't read far,' I said and knew I was lying.
'But you have read the beginning?'
'Yes,' I replied, 'yes, I have.'
'Do you like it?'
He laughed a quick and very provocative laugh. It was not an arrogant laugh but it told me he didn't think that it was the whole truth.
'Have you ever tried it?' he asked.
I felt a little annoyed by his being so self assured.
I heard my voice rise a little. I wondered if he had noticed.
'In the car,' he continued, 'you have read about how O arrives at Roissy?'
'Yes, yes, that part I have read.'
'She has to remove her knickers and sit on the seat, skirts pulled up, remember?'
It was something very old fashioned in his way of saying 'knickers'.
'Yes, I remember,' I had to admit, blushing.
'Have you ever tried it?'
'No, I prefer to keep my underwear on,' I said, in something I wanted to be a stern voice.
'But if someone you trusted, or even loved, ordered you, like in the book. Would it be easier then?'
I sat in silence, unable to speak for a while.
'That would be,' I started, 'that would be, interesting.'
His reply was an amused chuckle. He made me feel like a silly school girl and that was not what I had intended or wanted. I felt intimidated by his cockiness and yet I felt no malice in him.
I looked up at him and was met by a very warm smile. I had to smile back.
'Your book,' I said, trying to take control of myself, 'is it any good?'
'It is a mad man's fantasy,' he said dismissively, 'strange but intriguing.'
'Intriguing,' I said and wondered what I meant with repeating his word.'
He laughed again.
'I have a suggestion,' he suddenly said.
'Yes?' I replied cautiously.
'We are both intrigued by our books. Let me buy you dinner and we can discuss our books and what it is that “intrigues” us with them. Or what it is that is “interesting”'?
I stared at him for a second. He had asked me to dine with him. Wasn't this what I wanted with my silly exercise? This was indeed the strangest thing. Ms Prim was about to be taken to a restaurant by a stranger.
'I would like that,' I heard my own voice reply.
'Good, excellent!' he said beaming.
He sipped his wine, then put the glass down and looked at me.
'Forgive me Ms, but I never caught your name.'
'That is because I never told you. It is Pauline,' I said.
He chuckled and raised an eyebrow, just a tad.
'Pleased to make your acquaintance, Pauline. My name is François; Donatien Alphonse François to be precise but you can call me anything.'