MARY GOULD - CRUSH
Treasure Fontaine watched Russell with renewed anger as he danced with yet another woman, stealing the spotlight, and completely ignoring her at her own party. Bending down to whisper something in his dance partner’s ear, he moved with practiced ease across the dance floor, dipping and twirling her around and around to the appreciation of the crowd. Russell carried himself with a confidence born of knowing his sex appeal and his effect on women. The squeals and whistles from the women brought a smile to his face. As the noise became deafening, the suggestions became cruder and more graphic than the last. Enjoying the popularity, he flashed his chalk-white teeth, exposing the dimple in his cheeks, which only seemed to spark louder and cruder comments. You’d think he’s a stripper. Treasure thought, watching him escort his partner to the far side of the banquet hall.
Russell’s eyes met hers. He pulled his dance partner closer, running his hand down her back, until his hands lingered on her backside.
“I’d say Russell’s little performance is for your benefit.” Her friend, Sandra said as she came to stand beside her. Not waiting for an answer, she continued. “He wants you to see him grope the ever-easy Sophia.”
“Who cares? I’m leaving, remember?” Treasure’s voice sounded shrill and unconvincing to her ears. She hurried from her friend’s penetrating blue eyes muttering “I’m going to circulate.” For the first time that night, she noticed the lovely decorated hall. Banners of congratulations, we’ll miss you, and best wishes; colorful center pieces that graced the tables and festive balloons filled the hall. Young women and men came up to her and said she was a role model to them and wished her well. Booze flowed freely and the guests and employees were taking advantage of the fact that the Law firm had provided the choice of taxis or uber-rides for those who over-indulged. The managing partner liked to say, “We take on high profile cases, not become the headline ourselves.”
Treasure took a glass of champagne from a nearby waiter and continued to walk across the room chatting briefly with each employee, thanking partners, paralegals, secretaries, and judges. Her paralegal, Joe was sprawled on the floor, drunk. She signaled to one of the security guards. “Get him a Taxi, please.” And gave him Joe’s address. Tears pricked her eyes as she thought how much she’ll miss him. She turned away quickly to hide her emotion and saw Russell now dancing with her secretary, Julia. Why do I give a damn? But she knew why. It was the same reason she was a Law Order TV Junkie, she needed the reason or motive behind the crime. Why did he hate her?
Treasure had a crush on Russell since she started at the law firm of Cohen and Braxton five years ago and had been determined to prove herself as his equal. In year two, she lost her enchantment with him. He seemed to take an instant dislike to her; even though she had never had any run-ins or made any romantic overtures towards him. Curious, she’d walked right up to him one day and demanded to know if she had done anything to offend him. “No,” he said. I just don’t like leftovers.”
Flushed with embarrassment and humiliation, she had forgotten to ask what he meant by “leftovers.” She had opted instead to avoid him over the years, but her curiosity and fascination with him had not waned. Russell’s antipathy towards her had only increased and last year when he was asked by the Managing Attorney to present the Business Woman of the Year trophy to her, he had declined claiming to have a pressing engagement he couldn’t break. A few days later, she had learned that Russell had made up the excuse. When pressed, her mentor and Managing Partner, Arnold Cohen would only say the mayor would present the award instead. Russell’s refusal to be the presenter fueled ugly gossip and speculation at the water cooler; some employees thought it was about competition for the highest billing in the firm; others thought he had dumped her.
That was one of reasons Treasure decided to leave the firm. Could he have learnt about her feelings? She wondered. No way. Sandra hated Russell and was frustrated with her inability to drop the torch she carried for him. Her brother died in Afghanistan a month ago. He left goodbye letter imploring her to take some time off and enjoy life. She had taken the advice to heart and decided to leave the firm. She had wasted years wishing that Russell would one day notice her and ask her out. Fool. No more. She had made the firm millions of dollars and she could afford to travel without being broke. And if she was lucky, she’d meet someone worthy of her attention.
Arnold Cohen tapped her on the shoulder. “Come back.”
She turned towards him. “I’m sorry. What were you saying?”
“May I have this dance?” He held out his arms. She walked into them and was soon on the dance floor dancing to Billy Preston’s, “You’re so beautiful.” They danced in comfortable silence for a few moments and the soothing tones of the music calmed her.
“Are you okay?” Arnold asked.
“I’m fine. Painful memories, that’s all.”
“He is a fool. You deserve better.”
“Why do you think it’s a he?”
“I’ve been around the bend a few times, my dear.”
She opened her mouth to protest, but thought better of it.
Arnold kissed her cheek and whispered. “This is your big night, enjoy yourself, and don’t let him ruin it. Any guy who’s too stupid to show up for your party is not the guy for you.”
Treasure didn’t correct him “I’m going to miss you, Arnold.”
“Meet too. He put his hand over his heart. The music stopped and he kissed her cheek. “Don’t forget to check in once a month.” He had been her mentor when she started with the firm. Soon a close relationship developed between them. The other guys weren’t above trying to sleep with her under the guise of needing help with a difficult case or requesting help with research, not Arnold. He protected her and threatened the men with sexual harassment charges and warned them he would represent her, if they continue to bother her. Non-disclosure settlements were drawn up and no one in the office knew the amount except the board members. She had put it all behind her choosing to focus on her successful representation of her clients and the resulting bonuses.
When she tendered her resignation, Treasure had been surprised that the old geezers didn’t want her to leave, even offering her a partnership, begging her to stay, and refusing to take her resignation. She had lost her brother and his death reminded her of how fragile and uncertain life is. And she was damned if she was going to spend her life on a fruitless crush. Arnold had been her staunch supporter, agreeing to send assignments until she decided her next career. Arnold was the closest thing to a father she had; having been raised by her single aunt after her parents died in a plane crash when she was five years old.
She was brought back to the present by the sound of voices chanting her name. She had missed most of her toasts and goodbye wishes. Sandra was leading the chant. Arnold and her staff joined her, demanding, cajoling, and encouraging her to give a speech. She looked over to the corner where she last saw Russell and saw him standing nonchalantly, drink in hand, watching her. He wasn’t shouting, clapping or even smiling. Why did he come? And why couldn’t she ignore him?
Treasure sashayed in her sleek black dress with a long-split that showed off her golden leg, the dress hugged every curve as she made her way to the microphone. She didn’t look in Russell’s direction but made her way to the podium, high-fiving people along the way. Grabbing the microphone, she twirled around. Russell’s’ poker face stared back at her. I got to stop looking at him.
“They say Defense attorneys will represent anyone.” She began. “The story goes that a thief broke into a defense attorney’s home and he managed to shoot the burglar in the leg and tie him up. Then he called his partner over to represent him and to ensure his Miranda Rights were administered properly. When the Police got there, they asked why should he care if the burglar’s rights were violated? He replied, “He scared me half to death, the least he can do is pay my firm for his representation.” The audience laughed. Treasure ended her speech by thanking everyone, especially her support staff. She hated goodbyes. It was time to go home. She gave Arnold the peace sign, the signal she was leaving.
Treasure felt a tap on her shoulder and her heart thumped an uneven rhythm. She knew the scent of that cologne anywhere. Her anger ignited like brush fire. Trying to harness her temper, she ignored him. He tapped her shoulder again, applying more pressure. Typical arrogant--
“What do you want?” She asked.
“Dance with me.” Russell demanded.
“No.” She said.
She began to walk away. He grabbed her hand and pulled her on to the dance floor.
“Come on. It would be rude of me not to dance with the guest of honor.” Treasure didn’t answer. What was he up to? She looked across the room. All eyes were on them. She didn’t want to make a scene− not on her last day. He must have made the same calculation for he held her close, too close. His lips brushed her ear, her neck, drinking in her perfume. He was being deliberately provocative. What the hell did he want? She stood stiffly in his arms, hoping he’ll get the hint and let her go. Russell asked about her plans and she evaded them, saying only she will be taking a long vacation. He said she deserved it and hoped she will take some time to properly grieve for her brother. Who was this person? Was he so glad to see go, he could afford to be nice because he’d never see her again? She looked across the room and realized that room was almost empty. Only a few musicians were playing background music. How did he manage to distract her without her noticing?
“Where did everyone go?” She pulled herself from his arms, putting distance between them.
“I asked everyone to leave.”
“You had no right to do that. This is my party, something you seemed to forget.”
“I was the one who threw you this party. Besides, Arnold said you hated goodbyes, so we got rid of everybody.”
“Why would you throw me a party?”
“To make up for missing a few of your Award celebrations”
She got in his face and began pointing. “You ignored me for five years and now you host my party. You couldn’t just let me have my night, you arrogant, son of a bitch.” She was now beating his chest, her ample breast rising and falling as rage poured like a sieve from her.
“Calm down, Treasure.” You’-----
She didn’t let him finish. “Don’t you tell me to calm down? You Jerk.” She raised her hand to slap his face, but he caught her hand and with the other hand pulled her roughly towards him his arms held so she couldn’t extricate herself.
“You’re hurting me. Let me go, you--.” Instead he kissed her cutting off her words. The kiss startled her and she froze. He held her closer, his mouth teased and probed her mouth open; his tongue tasting, exploring sloppily. His teeth bruised her lips. No finesse, no chemistry, no skill, just slobbering, drooling in her mouth.
“Hell no!” She yelled and pushed him away.
“Shut you up, very effectively don’t you think?”
“I really wished you hadn’t. The words, shut up” would have sufficient.”
“But what would be the fun in that?
Fun for who? She didn’t say the words. She needed answers. “Why now?”
“I heard so much about your sexual adventures. And since you’re leaving and could no longer threaten my career with sexual harassment charges, I decided to see what the fuss is about.”
“Sexual exploits? Me?” She stuttered. “You’ve me mixed up with someone else.”
“Don’t be modest. You’re leaving a long line of satisfied lovers.”
He might have said the word customers. The insult was unmistakable. As usual, Russell appeared oblivious to the weight of his words. She had been called geeky, smart, cold, and a lesbian behind her back by people who didn’t know anything of her love life or lack thereof. No one had ever called her promiscuous− until now. He wore a smug expression as he gazed back at her. My God, the old geezers must have invented the slut label to debunk the office rumors of sexual harassment. She finally understood his cryptic remark that he “despised leftovers
Treasure smiled and moved close to him, so close, she could see the tiny hairs on his shaved chin. She held up her hands for silence and walked over to a nearby table and poured some champagne in two glasses. She finished the glass and poured herself another. She handed one to him and then clicked the glasses and toasted to “memorable goodbyes.” He took a sip of his champagne, his eyes lingering on her breasts. He wants me.
“I have another toast.” He said. “To great one-night stands.”
He had labeled her leftovers and the funny thing was his kiss wasn’t a delectable appetizer, In fact, she couldn’t wait to dine elsewhere. She had wasted five years, obsessing, fantasizing, dreaming about them being together. She raised her glass. “To crushes that don’t live up to the hype.”
His mouth opened in surprise.
“Bye Russell. Get some kissing lessons. I should charge you with kissing malpractice. Your sexual prowess is as contrived as my water-cooler reputation.”
“Want to try again?” He asked. “I’d like to restore my reputation.”
She laughed. “I despise do-overs, especially when its clear that extensive training is required to achieve competency.”
She left him red-faced red, nursing a bruised ego. She had built Russell up in her head like the sexiest man alive. Most fantasy never measure up to reality, the book is almost always better than the movie, a few of life’s ironies. She told the taxi-driver to take her to the Plaza Hotel, already planning her itinerary for her travels in her head.
Leave a Reply.