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Oct. 22nd, 2009 @ 05:42 pm An Honest Mistake
He would not be coming. Not this time, which meant not ever anymore, as far as she was concerned. She knew this without disappointment, without recrimination, with the resignation of someone who has been let down so regularly that she has come to expect it, to anticipate it even when she has no reason to. So she was not upset. Just annoyed with herself for having put on her best black dress, for having applied the makeup that she so seldom used, for having worn the heels that showed her legs off so. Seated on a stool at the bar, she looked like she belonged in a movie, only there was no leading man to complete the scene.

If only Mother could see her now. Mother would have sniffed and called her a tart, this being her damning label for any woman who dressed nicely and wore makeup and heels. Mother had been monochromatic, her black hair pulled back severely until the pinched pallor of her face was painful to see, with her black clothes shapeless on her bony body. The only time Mother had worn a different colour had been in her casket. Father had insisted she be buried in lilac. The flowers had been Mother's only indulgence in life, a fresh vase appearing on the dining table every Sunday morning without fail.

Lilacs were her favourite flowers too. She never bought them though, nor flowers in general. She disliked how store-bought ones inevitably wilted, but could never be bothered to grow them herself. On the other hand, she liked receiving flowers, but always threw them away once the date was over. Before she realised he would not be coming, she had been wondering what flowers James would bring her. Men who gave roses were unimaginative, Mother used to say.

'Can I buy you a drink?' She turned in surprise, for the voice was so much like James's, a velvety baritone that had cut through the noise of the restaurant on their first date, but of course she knew in her head it had to be someone else. Thankfully, her heart did not skip a beat. My life is not a movie, she thought.

'That depends. Why?' She surprised herself with that question. She had not meant it to sound as coy as it did, for she did in fact want to know. Mother's habitual suspicion of men had left its mark after all.

'Because I think you're a very attractive woman and I want to get you to sleep with me.' She had not been expecting that. Truth was a commodity that had been so rare in her life up to this point, she had learnt to extract it from the lies she was told. Having it offered like this was, she had to admit, disarmingly refreshing.

'Well, you could at least tell me your name. I'm Henrietta.' By the time she was on her third gin and tonic, she had managed to learn that William worked as an investment banker, was in town for a conference, and had picked this hotel because its restaurant served the best oysters in the city. (The oysters had in fact been what prompted her to suggest it to James for their second date.)

By the sixth drink, it seemed quite reasonable that she should sleep with him. After all, he had bought her six drinks and he was, truth be told, not unattractive. Not quite as handsome as James, she had to admit, but then James was neither here nor interested, was he? If she had been more sober, perhaps she might have observed that she was reenacting a familiar scene that never ended well in the movies. In her current state though, she was more focused on making it to William’s room without tripping.

The next morning, she woke up with a hangover and no memory of what had happened. It was only when William emerged from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist, that she began to piece together the events of the night before. This would have been sufficient to mortify her, Mother's cries of 'Slut' and 'Whore' already starting to ring in her ear, but to make things worse, he took his wallet out, peeled a few bills off, placed them on the bedside table, and said, grinning, 'There's more where that came from if you wanna have another go,' beginning to unwrap the towel.

At this point, she would ordinarily have protested and fled the room, but she was too tired to fight Mother's voice and William's at the same time. It was so much easier to stop thinking, lie back and enjoy herself, for William was skilful, even if he had taken her for a call girl. She supposed she deserved it because of the way she had been dressed last night. Still, even when he had finished and left more money on the table, breezily telling her she could have the room for the rest of the day, all she could think about was how in the movies, she should be in tears at this point, when instead she was calmly wondering if she was going to be late for her doctor's appointment and would there be time for room service.
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