Six weeks had passed like days, one night the same as any other, a buffet of excess and hedonism. Sometimes Chicago would cross her mind, but Petra would drink another glass of wine and then set the memory aside. She was the perfect companion for Charles Perkins. She danced when he wanted to dance, ate when he was ready to go in to supper, and she was charming to his friends until it was time for the men and the women to separate, as often happened at their parties.
That was the portion of the evening that bored her the most, and this evening was no different. The women did not talk about things that she was interested in, and she sat with them at poolside, playing with her ring and reclining on the chaise lounge, her legs crossed, one foot swinging to keep herself awake. The alcohol was making her tired, but this was her life, and she was a young woman. That never held her back from a good time.
The women chattered on about husbands and dinner parties, what other women wore to the last dinner party, and how things were going with her husband. They tore up every woman that was not there, and Petra looked down over her dress with the thought that if she turned in early, early being 2 a.m. instead of 4, they would tear her to pieces with their gossip after she had retired as well. But no, this was a fabulous dress, and they wouldn’t dare. One thing she had going for her, or against her, was that her husband was the alpha male in this little group of men. Some worked for him. Those that did not had known him for years. There were secrets, many things that Petra knew, and some that she did not. The only thing stopping her there was being his wife. Yes she had met the woman he was in love with, but there was no talk about it. It was not done. And what would be the end of that if she were to push the point? She had a good situation. She had a nice nest, the best clothing, and a man that knew how to buy for her. She would want for nothing if she never stirred the pot. What was missing that she did not have already?
Love. There was that. But love can be overrated. She knew plenty of women in love that end up alone in a year’s time. What she had was more valuable than all that romantic fluff. Her thoughts went to Robert. He was the sort of man a woman like her could really sink her teeth into. And she had, for a few wonderful weeks. Too bad it was just a ruse. Her eyes got soft and she smiled at the thought. The women chattered like they did not know she was there. She turned her head and her eyes landed on Charles. She gave him a lazy smile and lifted her glass a little, then turned back to the women. She knew how the game was to be played.
There was something about him that was different this trip. Maybe he should see the doctor. Something wrong with his liver maybe. Perhaps a lack of some vitamin or sunshine. They often lived like vampires, sleeping in the day and waking just before dark to spend the night out once more.
Finally the men rejoined the women, heralding the end of the evening. She knew that within minutes each one would excuse themselves and go, to find their own beds or the hotel beds. She wasn’t sad but she did have some kind of worry about what to talk about once she and he were alone again. He seemed to have something on his mind. Each couple took their leave and headed out of their hotel suite, the last one going at just past four a.m.
When they were alone once more, Charles closed the door of the suite and Petra stayed out on the balcony. The air felt like silk and she stood in it, feeling breezes over her skin and in her hair. There was nothing like it to be had, so warm and sultry. There was a great temptation in that breeze.
Charles joined Petra and put a hand at her waist. “I am going out.”
She stiffened under his touch. “So late?”
“Yes. One more meeting.” He kissed her neck, then her bare back. He knew she would not say another word about it. She wouldn’t complain. She had it good and she knew it. He went to brush his teeth and comb his hair, took up his wallet, and left. She remained there in the wind, exulting in it. She had this temptation to stand up on the edge and walk it. She had been good at that in school. She was a gymnast and all the girls were impressed by how she walked the curbs easily and never lost her balance. She knew she wouldn’t fall. It would feel amazing to do that again, up on the fourth floor.
She tightened the belt, cinching her dress and tied it tightly. She was warm and cozy from the wine, and she slipped off her shoes, then sat down and pulled off her stockings. Like every other time she slid them off, she was ecstatic that silk was no longer rationed. She stepped up to the table closest to the balcony ledge and felt the edge of the balcony wall, pulling herself up there. Her dress moved in the breeze and she took her first step. What a rush! At her fifth step she heard something from inside the room. She walked backward two steps to where she could reach the table and get down.
“Did you forget something darling?” She called out, but got no reply.