#11 – Before and Aftermath
- Kerstin Waterford was attacked while walking home after her shift at The P & Q.
- Frank Denzre came to her rescue.
- Plastic surgeon Oswald Glendale came to Emerald Heights to seek out his ex-wife Leticia.
- He became obsessed, on first glance, with Sarah Price.
The first thing she felt was the stiffness in her neck; no doubt caused by the struggle to keep her lips as far away from her assailant’s as possible. The next think she felt was the burning in her palms. Her hands had been pushed hard into the wall of the building as she was held fast by the four men who snuck up on her. Then she felt the breathing – not her own breathing – it was blowing across the back of her right shoulder.
She became aware of an arm draped lightly over her hip and another pressed in between herself and whoever was behind her; behind her on her own bed. Her eyes opened wide.
She rolled herself over. She hadn’t intended to be mindful of the person sleeping next to her but that’s what happened nonetheless. She looked into his face, his closed eyes, and frowned. It was the second time in only a few hours that Frank Denzre has surprised her by being where she’d least expected him to be.
And that’s when she became aware of her state of undress.
Sarah Price sat in a large booth at Cafe Orleans. She was early for the breakfast meeting with Oswald Glendale that had been arranged by her office. She attempted to look casual while sipping at her drink but in fact she was studying the entrance with excitement.
Price was no stranger to press. No fashion magazine went to print without at least mentioning a Price design: wedding dresses, everyday apparel, couture gowns for award shows and the unique items that Price was renowned for creating for the celebrity class the world over.
But this was different. This was to be an article about Sarah herself; and that excited her. Her parents were always in the limelight. Her father had revolutionized the fashion industry with his new looks and always managing to stay in the avant-garde. Sarah had learned well and had proven herself an inheritor of that fashion gene.
Finally he entered and she smiled broadly and perhaps even bounced once or twice in her seat – she really was that excited.
“Sarah,” Oswald said in a way that should have creeped her out. It should have sent shivers down her spine and sent her fleeing for the door, but Sarah was blinded by the attention. Oswald carried a briefcase and steno pad that had a pen shoved across the end of it.
She reached eagerly for his hand and shook it. “Don’t be nervous,” he said, as if reading her energy. And then added, curiously, “and my, you have lovely teeth.”
“Thank you,” she said, beaming more brightly than ever.
She watched with great interest as he appeared to compose himself. A waiter wandered by and he placed his order and hers – which she found unbelievably gallant – and then they were alone again.
She was still staring at him when his eyes blinked open. “Good morning,” she said dryly.
She had collected as much of the fabric of the sheets as she could manage and pressed it tightly against her chest. She could tell that he noticed. “Uhm,” she said after a minute, “thanks for… y’know… but, what the hell are you doing here?”
He knuckled his eye and yawned. He stretched and turned over in the bed. The sun shone down on his long, bare chest and drew strong contrasting lines in his tan. “I saved you from…”
She cut him off, “no… yes, I… I know. I mean, yes, you did. But what are you doing here now?”
She touched her hand to her forehead. “Why did you stay?” She gestured toward the corner of the room beyond which was her living room and further out was Frank’s own apartment. “You live right over there.” She added.
“You asked me to.”
She opened her mouth to speak and then clamped it shut. Her eyes darted left and then right before returning to his. “What?” She said quietly.
“You asked me to stay.” He reached out to touch her but she pulled back. “Hey,” he said softly, “don’t worry. Nothing happened.”
Her eyes narrowed and she gestured back and forth between the two of them, meaning to emphasize that they were unclothed. “Uh,” he said, his face flushing slightly, “well, your clothes were ruined and mine were…” he left off the rest of the sentence. He swung his legs out from under the covers and stood in front of her, he was wearing nothing but a chic pair of silk boxers that in another other situation she would have taken more time to regard. She stood suddenly, feeling uneasy about being eye level with his boxers.
“I… uh,” she began, “y’know, well, I should shower and you’ve probably got…” she trailed off.
“I’ve got nothing going on all day long,” he said, she caught his meaning. “But you go shower, I’ll run home and feed my cat and make you breakfast.”
“You have a cat?” She asked, quirking an eyebrow. She hadn’t taken him for a cat person.
“Go shower,” he said walking from the room in his boxers. She followed him out into the hall and watched as he disappeared from the apartment; she had no idea where his clothes had gone but he didn’t seem to care.
Café Orléans was a popular establishment for breakfast in Emerald Heights – in fact it was a popular establishment for nearly any meal – but this day it was quiet.
“What made you get interested in fashion?” Oswald asked the young woman sitting across from him. Her eyes gleamed with each word that he spoke.
“My parents have been doing it – fashion, I mean – since before I was born. I can remember when I was a kid travelling across the world and seeing all the outfits that my parents had designed. It’s a legacy, I guess,” she finished. She leaned in each time she stopped speaking in seeming anticipation of his next question.
“Your ears are perfectly hung,” he commented. He couldn’t help himself. He was lost in her flawlessness. He hadn’t seen a face like this – a face in which he could find nothing to improve – since Leticia. But Leticia was very much her father’s daughter; god damn Richard McKinelle, he thought.
“Thank you,” she said, absently bringing her lovely long, slender fingers up to her ears. Her fastidiously manicured fingers glinted in the light that overhung the table.
“What does it take to be Sarah Price?” He began.
“To be me?” She said. He smiled.
“Yes, what does it take to be the number one up and coming young fashion designer in the world. What does it take to get through your day? Help me give my readers a little insight into the life of Sarah Price.”
“Oh,” she said finally. “Well, I think family is important. And the drive to be successful. You have to want it,” she nodded as it agreeing with herself. “Never stop trying and always be willing to …”
He had stopped listening to her at this point but continued to regard her. She was perfect; flawlessly gorgeous, young, reasonably famous and rich. None of the others had been famous and only Leticia had come close to being rich. Bitch. But Sarah was all those things. He knew that he deserved her.
And she was more worthy of him than any woman he’d ever met.
He knocked before re-entering her apartment even though he knew she couldn’t have been finished in the shower yet. As he pressed the door closed behind him he noted that she’d made no attempt to lock it in spite of being alone and in the shower. He thought that odd given that she had been attacked on the street just hours before.
But perhaps not odd, he reasoned. She hadn’t even seemed to recognize that it had taken place. Even when they’d come back to her apartment in its immediate aftermath he had pressed her about whether she was hurt or not.
“Are you sure?” He had repeated for what must have been the eighth time in the preceding twelve minutes.
“Yes,” Kerstin said quietly; and that’s what concerned him.
“Is there anyone I should call?” He watched her closely. She looked up at him with a puzzled look, like she hadn’t considered reaching out to anyone or telling anyone about the attack from which he’d saved her.
“I don’t… no, I think… I mean, no.” She said finally. “It’s too… y’know, it’s too late… and besides everything is fine.”
“Relax.” She had commanded.
He paced back across the room toward her. He reached his hand to her shoulder and she flinched; he winced. He slid into the seat beside her, his body turned half-sideways on the couch, so that he could face her. She was hugging a pillow to her chest and leaned somewhat forward so her back wasn’t touching the back of the couch.
She briefly glanced at him and then looked back down at whatever it was that she had been looking at before. “Your place looks about as moved into as mine does,” he said, taking a shot that idle banter would work to ease the mood. It was true, her apartment was still mostly boxes, and furniture was a scarce commodity; much like his own apartment across the hall, but he had an excuse.
She didn’t reply.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Number nine.
She looked at him. At first it seemed to be just a casual sort of observation, the sort of looking that people usually do when facing each other. But then it changed, it wasn’t staring, but it was certainly more than looking. It was a type of studying, like she was searching his face for an answer that was hidden there. It started to make him uncomfortable; he was worried what she might see.
“Yes, tha… thank you,” she said after the room had been quiet for a very long time. She continued to look at him, but the intensity of the gaze had changed somewhat. It had changed from being studious to something less academic, less penetrating. “Will you stay, please?” She had said after a full minute of silence.
Presently, she came down the hall in a comically orange housecoat with a bright green towel being furiously rubbed over the top of her head. Her hair was being tossed about so that it was nearly impossible to see her face. He smiled a crooked smile as he watched her. The kitchen in Kerstin’s apartment was separated from the living room by a wall against which the stove was located, but in the wall was an opening through which the living room and the rest of the apartment was visible. Through this opening he watched her.
She looked up, spying him look at her, she declared, “what?”
“That is very orange,” he replied, chuckling slightly.
“Well, I don’t know what very orange means, but orange happens to be my favourite colour.” She paused and sniffed the air. She let the towel drop slightly from her head, “that smells wonderful.”
He smiled earnestly, appreciating the compliment. “It’s my specialty.” He made a funny little gesture as she came around the partition and regarded the cuisine merely cooking in its pan. He noticed as she looked up from the pan and into his face that she had a scratch that ran from slightly under her eye back toward her ear. Silently he reached up and traced along the length of it; tears formed in the corners of her eyes as she did so.
He pulled her in to an embrace as she sobbed openly against his chest.
“Thank you very much, Sarah,” Oswald said at the conclusion of the fake interview. He had done an excellent job of pulling the wool over the young woman’s eyes, although she was so enchanted by the notion of the attention that she was easily duped.
“Oh, my pleasure,” she said merrily.
“The next step will be to get some pictures to accompany the article,” he paused, “it’s easier to do these sorts of things in the evening – the light is better.”
“Of course,” she agreed unquestioningly. “We have a studio at the office that your photographer can use if you like?”
Oswald’s face peeled into an open smile, “that would be excellent,” he added, “but I do my own photography. How is Thursday night, around nine?”
Sarah nodded, “that works for me. The building will be empty but I know how to work the lights and set-ups. We can choose from the whole wardrobe.” She smiled broadly, “everything fits me.”
“And I’m sure it all looks gorgeous on you, too.” He said, reaching out for her hand. She allowed it to be taken. He brought it to his lips and kissed the back of her hand delicately.
“Oh goodness!” She chirped, staring at the watch on the wrist that he had raised, “I am late!” She shook her head, “I’m so sorry, but I have meeting and I have to go.”
Oswald played gracious and responded, “of course Ms. Price, I look forward to our next meet – the night after tomorrow.”
As he made his way back to his car he pulled from his pocket the napkin that had been Sarah’s during their breakfast and smelled it deeply. It held her scent.
He got into his car and drove toward the Emerald Heights Mall: he needed a new camera.Tags:Frank Denzre, Kerstin Waterford, Oswald Glendale, Sarah Price