Short Story: Open Secret

The house was as enigmatic as the woman whom I would have the pleasure of interviewing. Gloria Kirkland is the last living icon of a forgotten age, wife of the infamous financier, Rutherford Kirkland, matriarch of family that has touched almost every aspect of American life, yet she is relatively unknown to the masses. That’s the way it has been since she married into the Kirkland family, and the way she wanted it to stay.

But with the unauthorized biography of her late husband hitting the shelves next week, she felt the need to step out of the shadows. The family had enjoyed anonymity for decades, living right under the radar, but were well-known and beloved within the upper echelon of American, and indeed global society. They were power players, make no mistake, and the powerful play by their own rules.

But the new media no longer cares about playing by the rules of the elites. They seek to tarnish the legacy of the powerful, to tear down legends and role models. Ms. Hoff appears to be part of the new media, not content to impugn the members of the elite, but the power hitters of a bygone time. Her target is Rutherford and the family he left behind.

Gloria received me graciously into her home. She calls it home, though she rarely stays there. She usually stays in a penthouse in New York, or else the ranch she own in Texas. The Estate, as she call her home, was the first home she made with Rutherford after they married. Sixty years later, and she still calls it home, and it’s easy to find his influence throughout the mansion.

“Why don’t you take a seat,” Gloria says, pointing to the sofa nearest the door. She takes a seat in an arm chair nearest the fireplace, in which a fire is blazing in spite of the near eighty degree day outside.

“Thank you, Ms. Kirkland. We can begin whenever you’re ready.”

“Proceed then,” she encouraged me with an airy wave.

I pulled out my phone, hit the record button on my recording app, and began the interview. “We can do this however you want,” I stated. “I can ask you a series of questions, or you can tell your story uninterrupted. I’ll be able to put together a coherent narrative from either.”

“I’ll just tell you my story then,” she says. “You’re here at my invitation after all, and I think we should be playing by the house rules.

“As you like,” I replied genially.

“You’re probably wondering why I asked you here,” she started, not bothering to wait for an answer. “The memory of my late husband is being besmirched by that beast of a woman, and I thought it best to clear the air and state the whole truth, the unabridged, painful truth, as we lived it.

“Ms. Hoff wants to paint a picture of an effeminate man, one who had no control of his cuckoldress of a wife, a woman who she claims kept company with the rich and powerful, men who controlled the destiny of a nation, politicians and celebrities alike. But there’s more to it than that.”

“More than infidelity?” I gasped, interrupting her story, scandalized by the implication.

“I don’t know if I would categorize it as being unfaithful, Violet,” she replied, unconcerned by my interruption. “Every man I bedded I did with his blessing. Indeed, he encouraged me to enjoy the company of every man I invited to my bed. You see, Rutherford was not an effeminate man. He was manly, a man’s man, an avid outdoorsman, hunter, fisher, and camper. He enjoyed manly pursuits. He just didn’t enjoy the intimate company of women.”

“Are you saying that Ms. Hoff’s assertion that he was gay is correct?”

“I am,” Gloria nodded matter-of-factly. “It was an open secret within our circle. He was already in a long-term relationship with his partner and lover by the time we got married. I was to be the trophy wife, you see. I was young, beautiful, and desirable. Our parents set it all up. His father needed to see his heir in a stable marriage with a woman from a good family, and my father wanted to move up the social ladder. It was arranged, and though I didn’t know what I was getting into, I accepted my lot in life.”

“An arranged marriage?”

“Yes. Don’t get me wrong, I cared for him. He was good looking, charismatic, and a wonderful man. I grew to love him quickly enough, and in time he grew to love me. We married in an intimate ceremony at the cathedral, wedded by a cardinal no less. We consummated our marriage that night, and it was as awkward as you can imagine. Adept as he was in making love to another man, bedding a woman left him utterly flummoxed.

“But we managed it that night, though it wasn’t the only time we shared a bed. He needed heirs, after all, so we started having sex on a regular basis. His lover didn’t like it, but he understood the social requisite of the era, and he accepted it with good grace. I bore him three sons, and a daughter during our first five years of marriage. Afterwards, he visited my bed once a year, on our anniversary, to perform his required husbandly duties.”

She laughed at the idea, but I was left speechless. What had seemed from the outside to be a solid, Christian marriage was nothing more than a sham, or so I thought. Gloria looked at me shrewdly and smiled. “Does it shock you? You have to understand that the rules are different for those in our social class, at least it was that way with old money.”

“It does, yes!” I exclaimed.

“I need you to know, and I need you to relate to your readers that our marriage was a loving and respectful one. I became his partner and confidant, though only his annual lover. But I loved him all the same, loved him like I have loved no one else. I believe he loved me the same way. The only defect was that we lacked the romantic component most associate with love.

“He had Edgar’s bed for romance. Edgar’s wife was not as understanding as I was, but she accepted it like the devoted wife she was trained to be. She took no lovers other than Edgar, so she had a loveless, and sexless marriage. Other than a pro forma consummation of their marriage, they bedded only one other time, and she conceive a son for him. She grew embittered fairly quickly, deprived of a husband to care for, and a lover to care for her needs.

“I had no such qualms. Like I said, Rutherford encouraged my dalliances with other men. He was quite proud that I was desirable. I used that to our advantage, bedding the right man in my husband’s quest to gain control of one business or another. More than once, I slept with an influential senator at his insistence, gaining the support for a bill he wanted passed, or defeated.

“I wasn’t too keen on politicians, but celebrities were another matter. I must have slept through a who’s who of famous men, starting from the late fifties when we were married. I’m over eighty, and let me tell you, I still manage to get some of the fresh faces into my bed.Having money is a potent aphrodisiac, and the young are willing to trade favors for a little money. I’m not ashamed to have pressed my wealth to my advantage, but it has kept me young.”

I nod in agreement. She still looks beautiful in spite of her advanced age. She sat in front of me, with a short skirt the showed beautifully toned and tanned legs. She was thin and regal, with high cheekbones, and flowing silver hair. Her hazel eyes were piercing. I admit that I felt an attraction towards this woman.

“I can’t help but wonder, with your husband sleeping with men, did you ever dabble with women?”

“Why? Are you curious?” She laughed knowingly. “I’m familiar with your reputation, Violet. You’re not shy when it comes to lovers, are you?”

“I’m openly bi,” I confess, feeling ashamed for the first time.

“I’ve tried it a few times during the free-love sixties. I enjoyed it, but I realized fairly quickly that women were not my taste.”

“That’s understandable,” I say , trying to keep the disappointment from my voice.

“Oh dear,” she grinned, and I felt a pull of magnetism from her. “Were you hoping to score more than the story of a lifetime?”

“Well, no,” I flushed. “I hadn’t considered it until just now.”

“I think we should continue the interview at a later time, once you’ve come back to your senses.”

I nodded in agreement, and I picked up my phone and stopped recording. Gloria rose and pulled me to my feet, pulling me into an embrace and kissing me like I had never been kissed. She surprised me by how good a kisser she was. “It’s been awhile since I’ve been with a woman,” she confided with a wink, “but I think I’m willing to try again. Feel free to use this in your story, if you want.”

I would love to relate what came next, but I will keep that part of the interview to myself. I will note that I was not disappointed by her skills in the bedroom, as evidenced by the fact that I ended up spending the night there that same night, and several more after that. If that unauthorized biography threatened to cause a scandal, I don’t know how the world will react to our own secret love affair, and frankly, I don’t care.

Short Stories

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2 thoughts on “Short Story: Open Secret

  1. Pingback: A writing assignment | Joe Hinojosa

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