Your loss, pt. 5

black gown crop

part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4

Didn’t Charles say that he would always take care of her? Petra opened the expansive closet doors in her suite and surveyed what her husband had filled it up with. Dresses, gowns in several colors, skirts, blouses, an alpaca jacket, a pair of beaded lounge pants, and every ridiculous hat in fashion in both Paris and New York. Below were shoes, not shoes like someone might take on holiday, but shoes that a woman might accumulate over a lifetime. She did not react or squeal or get particularly excited or giddy, because this was her life. He had said she would never be left wanting and he had kept his part of the bargain. Her part was simple in theory–do everything he askd of her. So far she had done so, and without question. He had never had to get rough with her or even order her about. She was a tough girl and a little sadistic, just enough to enjoy what she was doing.

At some point in the process of picking out a dress for dinner, Robert crossed her mind. A twinge of something in her gut made her turn away from her clothes and sit down for a few minutes. She lit a cigarette. She really did care for him. Hurting him was not as fun as it was supposed to be. And worse than that, now she missed him. She had never experienced that before. Loss and longing were something associated with her homeland and her family. Here and now, well, she treated it like a game. She learned how to play it and she never made a mistake. She allowed herself a full five minutes to mope and pout, then she rose and picked out a black, backless gown, with a mohair wrap for her shoulders. Exquisite. He needed no help knowing how to dress her or what she would enjoy. Everything was perfect. Black satin slippers and a small silver evening bag and her ensemble was complete.

Petra made her way to the hotel lobby at 9:30. Charles Perkins would be there at 9, which meant that she would dress and show up a little late, after he had a drink and made the rounds of his closest business associates. It also meant he would have had the time to have a drink with the woman he really cared for, Dorothy, and scurry her away. Petra had known about her since spring. She was not the sort of woman to be discreet like Petra. She wasn’t good at being quiet. She had wanted to flaunt her relationship with Charles in front of Petra and whenever she had the opportunity to do so, she did. She wanted her to know that she was number one and Petra was merely an employee, a fact that Petra already knew. She was not in love with Charles, then or now. But she was fond of him, and grateful to him for giving her a new life, one that she got to enjoy and allowed her to be in the best society. She was happy, as happy as she could be away from her home. But that was relegated to the back of her memories, where Robert would live now as well.

Petra made her entrance, walking onto the large patio surrounding the pool. No one was swimming and everyone was dressed for evening, tuxedos and gowns the norm. She had no trepidation about approaching Charles because she knew that she looked exactly as he wanted her to look. He chose her clothes. Plus her taste, if anything, was even better than his. She approached him smoothly, slowly, waiting for a break in his conversation. When she perceived it, she moved in next to him and took his arm. He called her ‘Darling’ and kissed her cheek, and complimented her in front of the others. Then he got a waiter’s attention and got her a glass of pink champagne.

She smiled and gave a look, a smile, and all its due to each of the four people that Charles was talking to–two colleagues and their wives.

“I was just saying darling how wonderful it would be to take out the yacht while you are here. You know how I hate going out in it alone.”

Petra smiled and squeezed his arm, taking a sip of her champagne. Her bag was deftly under her arm.

“Oh that does sound like fun. You can sail with Mr. Godchaux, and Marilyn and I can gossip over martini’s. I have just the hat.”

That was the cue for the women to split off from the men and talk politely about hats and shoes and the opera while the men moved off to the side and broke out the cigars and brandy, or something stronger. Petra turned her head once mid-conversation and caught Charles’ eye. She smiled. He smiled back but when she first saw him, unguarded, she saw something that she did not recognize in his eyes. He was a dangerous man, she knew, because she worked for him and she was also a very dangerous woman. But this was a look he had never shown her. To her he was all husband and daddy and gift-giver. She got a chill up her spine and the breeze hit her skin where her dress was cut away in back. She shivered and pulled the wrap from her elbows where it had slipped, up around her shoulders. She turned discreetly so that she could no longer see him, or his conversation with the men. But there was something new in her eyes, a fear that was not there before.

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