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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Previous story – Shattered

Book Review: Quarter Past Midnight

quarterImagine a life where every debauchery you desire is available to you, safely and discreetly, for a fee. Oral sex by women young enough to be your granddaughter? No problem. Love life feeling a little stale and you want to spice things up outside the marriage? It’s all yours, if you desire, and no one need know of our predilections. Your reputation safe.

This is the world C.J. Asher brings to life in his novel, Quarter Past Midnight. Kate is a young woman in between jobs, who as a last resort begins to work as a dancer at Silhouettes, a popular Philadelphia gentleman’s club. Not quite earning enough to cover her expenses, she desperately spends her free time looking for a full-time job in the accounting field. That all changes with a recommendation from her boss.

She is introduced to Gretchen, a reclusive entrepreneur, who caters to her client’s baser needs. Gretchen operates a lingerie shop for wealthy clientele who might other wise not wish to be seen entering a sexual-oriented business. Behind the scenes, she realizes the elite’s fantasies, creating any scenario her customers require.

She hires Kate as an assistant, first to inventory lingerie, but soon introduces her to the seedier, and decidedly illegal, aspect of her business. When an unexpected tragedy happens, Kate is caught between leaving the life behind or becoming further entangled in the business. She can walk away or accept the risk, and the potentially lucrative rewards thereof. But first she has to decide, and then convince a reluctant clientele to accept her. As stake is a potential fortune and her life is at risk should she fail.

Quarter Past Midnight is an intriguing read. It deals with human sexuality, and the currency that sex elicits from able. Sex sells, and the idea that people often profit from the sale of fantasies makes most people uncomfortable. But it’s available, from adult book stores, to strippers and gentleman’s clubs, to the proliferation of adult sites on the web, sex is big business. Too often it’s a business fraught with legal and personal risks.

That’s why I like the idea of a ringmaster such as Gretchen, who pulls together elaborate fantasies for her clients. There’s intrigue as to whether Kate can learn the business and manage to keep it running. There’s also a question of motives from the other players involved, from Gretchen, Alan the accountant, and Gretchen’s’ sister.

I found the story to be entertaining and suspenseful. The sex scenes added enough spice to the book without becoming gratuitous. The protagonist’s journey from a rookie dancer trying to find some semblance of control to a woman willing to risk all for the opportunity to become her own woman was enthralling.

All in all, it is a great read and I give it a solid four star rating.

List of Book Reviews
Next review –  The Dreamt Child
Previous Review – 41: A Portrait of My Father

Book Review: Winter Howl

This is the third monthly installment of Book Reviews. This month I’ll be reviewing a novel by my friend, Aurelia T. Evans. Being that she is someone I know, I risked not being able to be completely impartial, so from here on out, I will not do a review for a book from an author I know. As for Aurelia, you can find her on WordPress or on Facebook.

© 2012 Posh Gosh

© 2012 Posh Gosh

For this month’s book review, I have selected an erotic novel, Winter Howl by Aurelia T. Evans. Let me be totally honest and say that erotic fiction is not a genre I’m all too familiar with, but be that as it may, I jumped right in, and quickly took a quick cold shower. Who knew erotica meant sex? Okay, I did, but still…wow!

The story follows Renee Chambers, proprietor of a no-kill dog sanctuary nestled on the borders of Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. The sanctuary, founded by her parents, is a shelter where all dogs, except those of a violent disposition, are accepted, and cared for. They also created an adoption program to help find loving homes for their charges.

What they didn’t expect was to find themselves playing host to guests of a different nature. Renee stumbled onto another world when she found a puppy who shifted from a wolf-like dog into a young girl, around the same age as Renee. The family took her in, not knowing what to do about the fact that they had canine shape-shifters in their midst. Ultimately, they came to an agreement; that they could stay, as long as they helped out with the care of the sanctuary.

Many years, later, after the deaths of her parents, Renee is now in charge, helped out by an unlikely group of shape-shifters, all who live on the ground unanimously. Her best friend, Britt, who happens to be the young pup that introduced the family to the shape-shifting world, lives in the house, along with her boyfriend and a few others that provide help in return for a place to live.

However, it is Renee that is the focal point of the narrative. Renee is an agoraphobe, – from the Greek αγορά meaning gathering place or market; and φόβος/φοβία, -phobia or fear – and has trouble going out in public, relying on Britt, who assumes a role as a service dog.

Her social anxiety has manifested in such a way that she rarely interacts with people off her property, and it has led to a de facto celibate lifestyle. The shape-shifters, Britt included, live with a different set of moral and ethical behaviors, including sexually, and Britt helps Renee develop healthy bonds with people, including slowly introducing her into the joys of sex.

This is all disturbed by the appearance of Grant, who turns out to be a werewolf. Werewolves and shape-shifters are natural enemies, and the enmity is evident as soon as Grant arrives. Renee, as owner and executive of the sanctuary, has the ultimate say as to whether Grant stays or leaves. Opting to give him a chance, it is through him that Renee experiences her first, true taste of sexuality, raw, over-powering, uninhibited. Through him, she relinquishes control, much to the dismay of Britt and the rest of the shape-shifters in her care.

At first glace, I thought this book was primary a sex novel, tawdry, cheap, but still highly arousing. What I missed, but soon realized to my satisfaction, is that the story is actually a look into the group dynamics of an insular group. It also illuminates the struggles of a person suffering from an anxiety disorder. (Geek side note: Sometimes it’s diagnosed as a feature of a Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia (300.21 DSM-IV), but can also be diagnosed as Agoraphobia Without History of Panic Disorder (300.22 DSM-IV-TR). Note: There is a fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-V 2013, but I’m unable at the moment to locate a copy.)

It’s fascinating because you can gauge the internal struggle our heroine faces as she tries to live her daily life, and as she takes the first tentative steps into sexually intimate relationship, first with Britt, and then with Grant. There’s also the dynamic between the core group of and the outsider.

It begs the question, why would a woman like Renee, who is quiet and reserved and is not one to take undue risk, go for a man like Grant? Why would she abandon control, giving it over to someone who is obviously dangerous, and quite possibly homicidal? Then there’s the helplessness and betrayal that is felt by the core pack on the sanctuary, especially Britt, who looks to Renee as both a friend and a lover.

It’s easy to dismiss the book as solely a sex novel, but it’s so much more. The book is about the dynamics of a woman and the company she keeps. It’s about how a person suffering from anxiety tries to cope, wanting to gain more from life as she yearns to break free from the prison of her safe little world within, and discover the world without, in spite of the costs and the risks.

Looking at it from that perspective, the use of sex is not gratuitous but a deliberate vehicle to push the bounds of our character. The loss of innocence/virginity is seen as a rite of passage in our society, and in exploring that side of her womanhood, she discovers a little more about herself, and those around her. 

Aurelia does such an amazing job weaving her story that it’s easy to overlook what really is at stake. What are we willing to sacrifice in order to live our lives? What are we willing to lose in the pursuit of interpersonal contact, including and especially that of an intimate nature? Why does it seem that we are willing to risk our safety to be with someone who is an obvious threat when there is someone closer to home, one who is infinitely more wholesome and a better fit?

My verdict? I recommend this book, as long as you are not puritanical in nature. It is well written, well thought out, and leaves you anxious as to what will happen next. And the straight and lesbian sex is nice as well. It’s definitely a good read. Check it out on Amazon!

List of Book Reviews
August’s Review – Minutes Before Sunset
June’s Review – The Last Death of Tev Chrisini
Winter Howl © 2012 Aurelia T. Evans
© 2013 Joe Hinojosa