Anna & Celecia ,
Tell Me You Haven’t Done This Before
“I hate leaving you to close out alone tonight.” Anna finished re-applying eye shadow and leaned toward the mirror to get a better look. She then started running a brush through her hair.
“Don’t worry, there’s not too much to do and Daniel will help me. I just need your spreadsheet in the morning. After you come up for air, that is.” Celecia smiled as she checked her look in the mirror. “I think we did pretty well tonight. We cleared a thousand by my calculations.”
“How did Katia make out?” Anna asked. “She was having ex problems too.”
“I know, poor girl. She wanted to leave but I convinced her to stay until Daniel could get her ex out of the parking lot. Unlike Andrew, her ex actually showed up. Daniel was doing overtime out there tonight.” Celecia sighed. “He cleared a path so Katia and Mark could leave here together.” She breathed a deep sigh. “They’re probably off starting a new relationship as we speak. It makes you feel all warm inside when you can provide that.”
“Yeah, it does. I thought maybe you knew who Richard was.” Anna put her brush on the counter and took one last look at her reflection in the mirror, watching Celecia’s eyes as she spoke. “You’re always in control of these situations and I thought you planted him into the mix.”
“Not with Andrew possibly walking through the door. One disaster in a lifetime is enough.” Celecia ran her fingers through her blond hair. “Let’s just see how this plays out, honey. If he’s an attorney and he wants to help, I’m willing to listen.”
“I want us to have some alone time. I wouldn’t feel right if it looked like we were taking advantage.”
“And we do know how to take advantage.” Celecia giggled and bumped her hip against Anna’s.
“We’re not going to do that to Richard, are we?” Anna corrected her friend.
“No, we’re not. I promise to give you some space.”
“I want to give it some time.” Anna said.
“More than fifteen minutes?” Celecia laughed and bumped hips again.
“We’ll see. He went to a lot of trouble to find me, and he’s cute.” Anna laughed. “He sat in a car across the street from my mother’s. He thought I was hiding out.”
“Why?” Celecia asked.
“He says he was infatuated. I think his attorney nose was looking for something because of our past.”
“Don’t put yourself down, honey. I was watching his eyes.”
“Really, was he giving me the look?”
Absolutely, you own him, and I like that he’s an attorney. Just don’t go sacrificing yourself for affordable legal counsel. I have some other candidates in the wings.” Celecia put her hand over Anna’s. “I know how fiercely loyal you are, but do this for Anna, we’ll manage, we always have.”
“I’m going into this with my eyes open, Cece. After the deal with Andrew you can bet I’ll be cautious.”
“Daniel will handle Andrew; you get yourself put together and go see this new guy. And give it at least twenty-four hours.”
“Thanks, Cece. I’ll call you later.”
The Wharf was walking distance from their speed dating venue and Anna found Richard waiting at the bar. He saved a seat next to his, and there was a glass of white wine as a placeholder on the bar. As usual, the Wharf was busy on a Tuesday evening and it was standing room only.
“Celecia declined the invite for tonight. She’ll get together with us another day.” Anna slipped onto the empty stool even though it was a little uncomfortable sitting at the bar. She wanted to have an intimate conversation, but all the tables were taken and this time with Richard was too important to put on hold. It was too early in the relationship for a rendezvous at his or her place, so this would have to do. “She knows you want to help us, but she also knows I want to see if this spark turns into a flame.”
“My flame is burning bright now. I think I was clear how I felt about you.”
“And my past doesn’t bother you?” Anna asked.
“I’m not worried about what went on. I know you and Celecia are pros and all the other girls out there are just Sunday drivers. What I look at is what you’ve done since.”
“Just for the record, neither of us worked with the men.”
“I’m not asking questions about that part of your past. It’s your future I’m interested in.”
Anna into his eyes. “I just want to be clear, we never met strange men in hotel rooms.” She repeated. “It started out as a dating service and kind of got out of hand. I never thought we would spend a few days in jail, a few thousand dollars on legal defense and then know the humiliation of our faces being exposed on TV news.”
“But look what you girls have done since. Your local community work with abused women has drawn the attention of the Mayor and the City Council. People will remember the TV coverage of your redemption and forget about what got you there.”
“But that was a requirement of our probation.”
“I realize that, but you and Celecia could have done something easy like stuffing envelopes, low profile and out of sight. Instead of taking the easy route you’ve been out in the community and opened yourselves to scrutiny. You talk to women’s groups and go to high schools and counsel girls on promiscuity. I heard a speech you gave at the Women’s League about a month ago, and that’s how I found you.”
“You know how to make a girl feel special.” Anna lowered her eyes and spoke softly.
“I admit I was impressed with your looks in the beginning, but your actions since the trial are what got me at your table tonight.”
“I know you think I’ve been hiding out, but stalking my mother in
, really? I’m just being cautious. Both
of us have been harassed by crackpots.” San Diego
“You can understand why I went there.”
“Yes.” Anna let her shoulder rest against his. “You went to a lot of trouble. My mother thinks your motives are a little unorthodox though.”
“I wasn’t stalking; I just hung around looking for you. Do you go there often?”
“Rarely. She forwards my mail and we talk about once a week, that’s when I can stand the constant reminders.” Anna let her hand rest on his and squeezed. “I’m impressed. I’ve never had a man go to such lengths.”
“Maybe you would if you’d stay in one place and surface for more than a few minutes.” He reached between them and touched the skin of her arm. “But I’m glad you kept yourself out of sight.”
“Why? Do you have a fetish for reclusive women or is this an unintended consequence of pretty girl syndrome?” Anna laughed.
Richard slowly slid his fingers down the length of her arm. “It cuts down on the competition, and yes, it’s a symptom of pretty girl syndrome.”
“Sweet flattery, it could get you laid.”
Richard grasped her hand between his hands. “I’m unsure what your intentions are, but that’s not just why I came here.”
Anna squeezed his hand. “Be careful, Richard, I can be like a tornado. Once I get all wound up you can’t stop me until I run my course.”
“I wouldn’t even attempt it. But shouldn’t we get to know each other a little more?”
“You’re right.” Anna laughed. “What’s your favorite color?”
“Green, how about you?”
Richard stared at her and leaned forward. “Do you want to do it right here and then find out about each other afterward?”
“I don’t do group sex, so let’s just talk all night and plan sex in the morning if everything goes okay. I love morning sex.” She whispered in his ear.
“I’m glad we got that settled.” Richard laughed and shook his head.
“Me too. I’m at my best when I have a goal to work toward.”
Richard leaned back and took a deep breath. “How did you girls get started in the escort business?”
Anna looked down the row of seats at the bar, wondering how many of the women were bona-fide dates and how many were rent-a-girl’s meeting their clients. “It actually started when we were at UCI. We had a regular girl’s night at my apartment and we joked about setting up a dating service. It was all innocent in the beginning.”
“All things truly wicked start from innocence.” Richard said quietly.
“And the man quotes Hemingway.” Anna smiled. “But the wickedness has continued.”
“I don’t understand. The trial is over and you’re satisfying the conditions of the judgment. What else is there? You and Celecia aren’t still running the service, are you?”
“We started a branch up here when we moved and we disbanded the service in the south. The girls that wanted to come with us did, but most stayed. That was the first mistake; we left and didn’t look back. After our case was settled we found out that some of our girls in Southern California decided to keep the service going. They didn’t change the name; they didn’t change anything, except who was getting the profit. And now my ex-boyfriend is threatening to blow the whistle since I broke off our relationship.”
“Doesn’t he have someone else to harass?” Richard asked.
“He says he loves me.” Anna waved her hand through the air.
“That’s a rather peculiar way of showing it.”
“You’re an attorney. What can we do to protect ourselves?” Anna asked.
Richard reached toward her face, moving a long strand of hair from in front of her eye. “Don’t let him get out front. Go to the authorities and file a complaint; let them know what’s going on.”
“I don’t know…”
“It’s the best way. We’ll go down there file the paperwork with the court, and then get a restraining order against your ex-boyfriend. Truth is cleansing and Judges look favorably on people who take the initiative to do the right thing.”
“We’ll go down? You’re inviting yourself?” Anna asked.
“You’ll need an attorney.”
“I know, I just don’t want to impose on you so early in our relationship.”
“At the risk of repeating myself, I told you how I feel.”
Anna rested her elbows on the bar. “Do you make it a habit of rescuing convicted women?” She looked at him and noticed his smile reclined to a pensive look. When he didn’t respond she pushed for an answer. “Richard, tell me you haven’t done this before.”
“I did this once before,” he said quietly. “The circumstances were a little different, but I rescued a woman I thought was innocent.”
Anna rolled her eyes. “Gee, Richard. You really had me going there. For a minute I was feeling pretty special. Is this something you do on a regular basis?”
“No, just once before.”
“And I suppose you slept with her?” Anna asked.
“That’s not important…”
“Why wouldn’t it be important? It’s always important. Did she dump you and now I get you on the rebound?” Anna cut him off.
“I really think you’re jumping…”
“Let me get this straight. You rescue a woman and use that to get her into bed. What a scam…”
“I think you should listen, Anna. Before you convict and sentence me you need to hear the whole story.”
Anna took a deep breath and lowered her elbows onto the bar. A tear formed under one eye and she let it careen across her cheek.
“Before you get all wound up like a tornado I would appreciate your attention.”
“You were the guy, Richard.” Anna lifted a napkin and dabbed the moisture on her cheeks. “You were the guy who was going to take me away from all this. And now I find out you’ve done this before. How many times, Richard? Two, eight, ten? How many times? Who else?”
“She was accused of having sex with her underage male students.” Richard dismissed her pleas and began. “I thought she was innocent. I couldn’t believe a woman like her was capable of doing such a thing. Every time I looked into her eyes I saw an innocent person. She was smart, ambitious, and she was an intense lover. She seduced me into her web and I got on my white horse and did battle for her.” Richard looked into Anna’s eyes. “And then she did it again. I got her out on bail and the first thing she did was go back to school and pick up one of her students. They spent a weekend together in Tahoe, and afterwards she called me. She said she realized she couldn’t help herself. She cried and I tried to rationalize what she had done.” Richard lowered his head and spoke softly. “And then she said good-bye, hung up and put a thirty-eight into her mouth and ended it.”
“I remember that. It was just last year.”
“So you’re not the only one who’s out there taking a chance. We all have baggage. Love is a leap of faith, and sometimes we misjudge.”
Anna lowered her head into her hands and took a deep breath. “You have damage. Oh God, do you have damage.”
Anna & Celecia