Friday, March 23, 2007

Chapter 2: Gaston

"The Channel"
© 2007 Lisolette Gilcrest

Gaston. I think I've grown a certain affection for him. More than twice my age and probably quadruple my weight, he is a lonely old man, who above all has been as honest with me as he can be with himself. A widower, he lost his wife seven years ago to a terrible car accident. An extremely successful and savvy businessman, well credited in his field, he began to lose grip and slowly began deteriorating from the grief, and quite honestly, from the lack of sleep. He would toss and turn with nightmares about the accident, her funeral and her loss. He would wake to turn to see if it was all a bad dream... and then remember that it was indeed a "bad dream."

The partners in his firm asked him to take some time off, some time to himself and he agreed. He drank those first few months away and philandered with hookers. Then one day he found me. If I recall correctly, he was referred to me. He placed a phone call and when I answered, he couldn't help but slur his words in a drunken Absinthe stupor. I promptly informed him that he was to go take a very cold shower, drink two espressos and call me back when he could form full sentences.

"I am not a common whore," I told him. "If you want common service, please go down to the Rue."

He was apparently tired of the parfum-ridden prostitutes or his life as a drunk (one or both), or maybe I just sounded a lot like Chloë, but it was an effective maneuver. The next day, stone cold sober, he called to arrange an appointment. He was given stern treatment by me after that first drunken contact and for several months afterwards while he shaped up. I called him my "problem child" and I was especially squeamish about his requests at first – nothing necrophiliac or terribly kinky, just morbid.

Chloë had been slightly taller in stature and some twenty years younger than Gaston (about ten years older than I am now). She had had amazing taste and a very large budget: elegant cocktail gowns, sexy lingerie, top-notch footwear, parfum and colognes and gorgeous jewelry. Gaston had left everything exactly as it has been the day she left and never came back. One could almost see the wear marks from where Gaston had walked around a beautiful oriental silk robe that had fallen from her armoir onto the plush carpeting of their bedroom.

Upon learning of her death Gaston was shocked... then he was angry... then he slipped into the delusion that helps him survive from day to day. When he saw me, he turned pale and bent over, as if to catch his breath or vomit – which one it was in this case, I do not know. I responded by chastising him, thinking that he had been inebriated again, until I heard him sobbing, "Chloë..." Apparently, to him I had some resemblance to her, although I have since seen pictures of her and think the likeness is remote. Perhaps it's more my mannerisms, but I'll never know.

Once he was able to gather himself he started explaining his situation, and I felt terrible. In fact, I am under the distinct impression that I was the first person he ever opened up to on the matter. Our first session didn't even involve intimacy. I just listened, like his "Father Confessor." At the end, he was so emotionally exhausted that he just fell asleep in my arms. I stayed there for a while and then eventually grew uncomfortable when my arm fell asleep and hungry, so I got up to go get something to eat.

I wandered around the house for some time as I ate some pâté, and it was then that I discovered the pictures. Chloë was beautiful – far more beautiful than I have ever felt about myself. She exuded a unique grace and class, and I am still today admittedly enviable of her beauty.

After a short while, I could hear Gaston tossing and turning... and whimpering, so I made my way back to the master bedroom. Just as I was a few steps from the door, he sat up in bed and cried out her name. He looked around in the darkness after feeling the bed beside him. As I crossed the threshold to the bedroom, I stopped in the doorway and watched him for a bit as he murmured her name and looked around helplessly. I leaned against the door frame and the wood made a soft, creaking sound. He started a bit and then began to scramble, thinking me an intruder in his disorientation.

"It's me..." I spoke up in a yelled whisper and Gaston immediately relaxed.

"What are you doing?" he asked still slightly unnerved.

"I was getting some pâté, I was hungry... I hope you don't mind."

"Of course not. How silly of you," he responded sheepishly. "Now come to bed," he patted the side next to him. I walked over and set the empty container of pâté down on the dresser, slapped my hand together softly and began to crawl into bed.

Gaston let out a small chuckle, "What are you doing? You're still in your clothes, go put a nightgown on. Honestly, Chloë, sometimes I wonder if I didn't marry a Fae... prancing around in the middle of the night, eating pâté, and getting into bed with your street clothes on..." He laughed, obviously entertained and with adoration.

I stood there like a deer in headlights. "Chloë? Does he think I'm his wife? Is he still sleeping? What if he realizes it's me in the middle of a love-making session and panics?"

"Well?" he quashed my impulse to run.

"I'm coming, Gaston."

"Very good," he said pleased.

I don't know why I played along. I think part of me understood that deep down inside he knew better, but just couldn't bring himself to admit it on this night.

I walked over to the armoire, stepped over the robe on the floor and opened up the top drawer. To my luck, it was the drawer with all of her negligees in it. I chose a simple one in the dim light of the hallway sconce. I undressed with my back to him, fearing that he would recognize that my nude body was different from hers, and then I hopped in bed.

"Good night, my dear," he spoke wistfully.

"Good night, my love," I responded instinctually, then cringed silently hoping it wasn't too much.

He let out a sigh that sounded like his grief escaping him.

I stared at the ceiling for a long time, wondering what the hell I was doing there, and if I was even doing the right thing.

In the morning I woke up before Gaston and got out of bed quickly, before he awoke – just in case he was sleeping when he asked me to put his wife's nightgown on. I folded it up quietly and put it back into the armoire, then snuck out of the bedroom and back downstairs to the pantry. I whipped up some crêpes and eggs for two and sat down to eat. I figured I'd leave him a plate and he could think maybe his wife left it for him.

"Merde," I muttered. "How am I going to get paid?" I asked myself. As I sat there wondering how to approach the situation, I was surprised to see Gaston turn the corner with attaché in hand. I couldn't believe that they made such handsome suits in such a large size. I also couldn't believe that he was in such good spirits.

I nodded and smiled a bit nervously. I was terrified by the possibility of different responses that my presence there on that morning could have elicited. He smiled appreciatively and cleared his throat to speak.

"Thank you for last night... it was just what I needed."

I nodded a bit, wondering if he meant the discussion or the nightgown.

"Did you need any money today, dear?

He was dropping me deeper into confusion – I was a courtesan, what was he thinking? Is he still in denial? Or could he just not bring himself to admit was really going on?

"I... would like a small allowance, yes please, Gaston..."

"Will 5000 francs do for today?"

I nodded.

"How long will you be away?"

"I... hadn't decided. Did you need me back at a certain... time?" I stammered.

"I'd like you to be here... home... by around midnight at the latest."

He reached into his front coat pocket and grabbed out a small metal item, then handed it to me. It was a house key. I looked at it and back up at him. I gave a quick look to the breakfast plate that I had prepared for him. I nodded as if to seal a contract and then spoke firmly.

"Sit down and eat your breakfast, Gaston. It's getting cold..."

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