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The proposition, p.11
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       The Proposition, p.11

           Jessica Schlafer
 

  Chapter 10

  Eventually, we landed on the top of a hotel and were met by hotel staff, who led us to an elevator.

  “Abigail, I would love for you to stand with me while I meet some of the people here,” Merritt asked.

  “Of course,” I said.

  “And I have a room for you and Nick for the evening, since we won’t be flying out until tomorrow morning.”

  “I wasn’t aware of that,” I said. “I don’t have anything here.”

  “I wasn’t aware of that, either,” Nick said, I could feel him tensing beside me.

  “I’m sure I told Paul of this plan,” Merritt said.

  “Oh, that Paul,” I laughed, trying to diffuse the situation. “I bet you told him and he forgot.”

  Merritt laughed a little too much. “Oh, Abigail, you are a delight.”

  The elevator stopped and the doors opened into a grand ballroom. There were hundreds of people mingling. Several people stopped and looked in our direction. I could hear whispering and see people pointing. Merritt and Nick stepped off the elevator, I hesitated.

  “What’s wrong, Abby?” Nick asked.

  “People are pointing.”

  “Abby, it’s because you’re easily the most beautiful woman here.”

  I didn’t move. Nick stepped back, I could see Merritt shake his head in disgust.

  “I’ll be right here,” Nick whispered.

  He led me off the elevator and into the ballroom. Merritt put his arm around me, putting his hand on my back. Again, I had to hide my revulsion.

  The dinner was delicious, the food was five star. I mingled with the rich people for the evening, playing date to Merritt as well as I could. I was able to spot Paul’s men on the walls of the ballroom, always within my line of sight. Nick was never far from my side.

  The fund raising part was an action. The cost of the dinner at $1000 a plate. There were several items donated from local businesses. They brought out a brand new bed. It was only full sized, but was a very expensive mattress. The auctioneer went on and on about what a great addition to a guest bedroom it would be.

  I gasped when I saw it, knowing that my bed in Boston was such garbage. I had never had a good night’s sleep on it. The bidding started low, just $50. I made a bid. Soon, a female voice from the back of the crowd raised it to $60. Then a male voice to $70. The same female voice raised it to $80. I raised it to $100. A new male voice raised it to $200. I felt defeated; $200 was a lot to me.

  “Go on,” Nick urged, smiling.

  “Five hundred,” I called.

  There was talking among the crowd. Finally, a male voice called out, “Two thousand dollars.”

  It was Merritt.

  Instantly, I knew I was finished.

  “Five thousand,” Nick called.

  “My goodness, five thousand,” the auctioneer said.

  “Six thousand,” Merritt called.

  “Well, six thousand, amazing. Six thousand going once, six thousand going twice…”

  “Ten thousand,” Nick called.

  The auctioneer banged his gavel, “Sold to the young man in the front for ten thousand dollars.”

  There were cheers from everyone in the crowd. Some men came by and shook Nick’s hand, slapping him on the back. There were many words of “congratulations” to both Nick and myself. I caught quite a few men looking down my gown, but it didn’t bother me anymore. I felt elated that I was here, with Nick.

  Soon, though, Merritt came through the crowd. He made a big show of bowing in front of Nick, defeated in purchasing the bed. Their pictures were taken and people laughed.

  Nick was distracted, talking to a group of men, when Merritt pinched the back of my arm and pulled me away, “You’re here with me, don’t you forget that,” he said, through gritted teeth.

  “You’re hurting me,” I protested.

  “You have no idea what pain is, Abigail,” he pinched harder.

  I almost cried out, “I’m sorry. I got carried away by the auction, I really wanted that bed. I had no idea that Nick would go after it.”

  “It's not about the bed, you stupid twit. Come on, you have to come smile for some pictures.”

  I pasted on a false smile for the rest of the evening. I made small talk on auto-pilot. Nick had disappeared with the auctioneer to finalize the sale of the bed. I could still see Paul’s guards. There was a wonderful band playing, so Merritt dragged me to the dance floor and made me dance with him. I was repulsed by him touching me so intimately. The song finished and we stopped dancing. There was a crowd of people that applauded, so Merritt bowed and I curtsied.

  “Thank you, Abigail. I must leave you now, though. I have some business to tend to. You can check in at the front desk for your room. We will be flying back to Portland tomorrow at nine AM.”

  “Thank you, Merritt,” I said.

  He walked away without saying anything. I searched for Nick, when I couldn’t find him, I started to get worried. He had, after all, embarrassed Merritt at a very important party. I found the guard who had driven us to the airfield.

  “Hey, where’s Nick?”

  “He’s on the balcony, over there,” he pointed to the right.

  “Thank you,” I said and started to walk away. “Do you and the other man have a place to stay for the night?”

  “Yes, ma’am.”

  “Oh, okay.”

  I walked out onto the balcony. For some reason, I thought we were on the first floor, but apparently we were pretty high up.

  “Wow,” I said, awestruck by the view of the city.

  “It’s beautiful out here,” Nick said.

  “It sure is,” I said. “Where have you been?”

  “I thought it’d be a good idea to stay back a bit after I pissed Merritt off.”

  “I see,” I said, shivering and rubbing my arms.

  “Here,” Nick took his coat off and wrapped it around my shoulders. “It’s a lot cooler here, we’re pretty close to the Sound.”

  “Thank you,” I said, pulling the jacket closer.

  “It’s a shame, though, to cover you up. You look amazing tonight.”

  I blushed, “Thank you.”

 

  “No, thank you, Abby. You’re really helping Paul and me...I can’t even tell you.”

  I wasn’t sure how to react. I turned back toward the city. “Do you ever just think about leaving?”

  “Of course.”

  “Sometimes I just think about running away and not telling anyone where I am. Getting a whole new life.”

  I lifted myself onto the railing, leaning out a bit, momentarily forgetting my fear of heights. The rush of air washed over me.

  “Why, Abby?” Nick pulled me back toward him.

  I sighed. “My life didn’t exactly turn out the way it was supposed to. I’m so close to moving back in with my parents. I never wanted to be 28 years old and living with my parents, you know?”

  Nick touched my face and turned me to face him, “You don’t have to go back, Abby.”

  “Why would I stay here? Nick, you’ve made it abundantly clear, time after time, that you aren’t interested in me. Well, let me correct that, you are interested but when things get too intense, you pull away.”

  “That’s not true,” Nick lowered his head.

  “Nick, I don’t want to argue with you. I just want to enjoy the rest of the evening.”

  We went back in to the ballroom and danced together. Some people that Nick knew stopped by and chatted with him. There were many women who stopped me and asked where I got my dress. I talked Betty up as much as possible, after all, she was the reason I looked as good as I did tonight.

  The evening was winding down and I was starting to get tired.

  “Nick, I’m ready to go to our room,” I said, leaning against him.

  “Sure, let’s go

  “Merritt said that we have to check in at the front desk for
the room key.”

  “I already did that, I didn’t want them to give away our room.”

  He steered me to the elevator, shaking hands and saying good bye to the people he knew. I smiled and made small talk, when necessary. We finally made it inside the elevator and Nick pressed one of the buttons while I leaned against the wall, exhausted. When the door opened, Nick led me down a hallway, opened a door, and led us both inside.

  “Oh my God, I could just go to sleep right now, just how I am,” I said.

  Nick laughed, “I know, I’m exhausted.”

  I went into the bathroom and washed up as well as I could. I took my dress off and put on one of the plush robes supplied by the hotel.

  “I’m finished,” I said as I came out of the bathroom.

  Nick was already lounging on the bed in just his boxers.

  Jesus, I really like seeing him like that.

  “I’ll probably be asleep when you come out,” I said.

  “I’ll be as quiet as possible,” he said.

  I wasn’t asleep when he came back, but I was close. I was only in my bra and panties, having nothing else to wear. Nick was obviously comfortable enough to wear only his underwear around me, so I tried to be equally comfortable. After all, I was only the hired help.

  He climbed into bed and I could hear him take a deep breath in seeing what I was wearing. I smiled to myself, satisfied that I had distracted Nick with my dress at the party and my skimpy clothes in the bed. He settled into the bed soon and shut off the light. I fell asleep soon after that.

 
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