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Long ago, when communities or clans
decided they no longer wanted
certain people living in their community,
they would burn their houses down,
hence the expression "to get fired."

 

 

Paquette feltthings before she knew things.

It was Nanette. The way she had looked at Guy, popping her head out of her dungeon space, completely off-protocol, checking the hallway for the man– not the client.

For the past few weeks, Paquette had watched Nanette’s mood drooped like a flower in the heat. Without Guy as a client – now, she assumed correctly, a boyfriend – Mistress N’s intensity dissolved. Paquette knew it and finally, so did Nanette.

“Mistress N,” Paquette said to her as she entered for work, her long coat wrapped tightly around her cinched waist with a plaid belt. “This is my home. This is my life. My people are my family. But I fear that to you, this has become a job. And because of that, I must look for someone else to fill your room. You are truly a wonder to behold, my dear girl, but this is not a life for you, perhaps.” Her black nails reflecting the dim light, shining wet.

Her first reaction was to be insulted, then embarrassed, then resigned. Luckily, she hadn’t spoken until she reached the end.

“You are right. And thank you.” Nanette waved to Eden, who had heard everything from her place in the hallway, standing still in her vinyl slit skirt.

Paquette held out an envelope with Nanette’s earnings. She had drawn a heart on the back on black lipstick. Nanette took it without saying anything and left.

As Nanette walked the stairs up for the last time, running her hand along the cold stones, she breathed in deeply, sad to leave Eden and the others, but glad she’d be able to tell Guy that she was out of the business.

Later that night, over a fat carafe of red, Guy didn’t react the way Nanette had assumed.

“There was a honestly to your prostitution. Now you will be typical, I fear.” Guy barely looked at her, focusing instead on lighting his cigarette with a broken match. “But at least you have given up working-”

“Guy!” A robust man with thick, wavy hair and a black beard waved through the smoky bar crowd.

“Ah…” Guy responded, nodding his head, knowing he was finally caught in the act. “Sit with us.” He waved to the woman clearing tables to bring another glass. “Bernard, Nanette.”

Bernard smiled and kissed her cheeks. He raised his eyebrows approvingly toward Guy the tilted his head, amused. His friend has good cause to be as busy as he has been lately.

The glass came, followed by a healthy pour and Salut!

“And so, Nanette, how are you?”

“I am good-”

“Oh, American!” Bernard couldn’t help grinning, nor did it ever occur to him to try. “Where are you from?”

“Berkeley.”

“California – land of movies and bikinis!” Now he was nearly laughing.

She wished she weren’t blond.

Nanette was humiliated, and by someone who didn’t even know her! At the same time, she felt how humiliating this must be for Guy – being with her.

She drank her wine quietly, shaking the negative thoughts, holding instead on to the memories of the separate space together. Him letting her hold him, in their special way. Breaking down for her. Letting it all go.

These feeling-memories didn’t comfort her. They only inflamed her awareness of their separateness and, in some ways, naivety – failure.

I should be with someone who is proud to be with me.

“Have a good laugh!” Guy smiled back, his eyes angry. “You have a laugh but know that I remember quite a bit in your history as well!”

Nanette thinking: I am sitting right here. You talk about me like I am a dog or an ugly trinket. Maybe I am – now.

“My history – my friend, what?! They were women of genius. Misunderstood, perhaps, sometimes, certainly, but women of genius!”

“Guy, I need to get home and start looking for work-” Nanette interrupted.

“Oh, I had thought she was a student! Nanette, what kind of work do you do?” Bernard, still smiling that fucking smile, asked.

Guy shook his head and made a gesture with his hands that said he didn’t know, and didn’t care.

Nanette stood abruptly, tall and gorgeous and American, and turned to Guy: “Guy, go fuck yourself” then walked out without answering his friend’s question.

When she came home she did as she was doing more and more, a nice bit of heroin to take the edge off of a happiness that had started swinging its tail around, whacking anything in range.