Tuesday, October 19, 2010

La Ronde, Part Three: Provocateur

Here's a fun thing: I'm part of a Round Robin story sequence thanks to Patti Abbott, which circles around envy. One character envies another in Patti's story, then that character envied, envies another in Dana's story and now I'm writing about that character envying a third. 

Hence the lovely woodcut of the punishment of the envious.

I figured it was about time to get a female character into the story :-) so without further ado --

by K. A. Laity

James Preston basked in the warmth of the congratulatory accolades. People swarmed around him, touching him, smiling at him and it was bliss. The glowering presence of that ponderous fool Disch nearby only made the golden glow burn brighter.

How ridiculous he had been! Amateur! Trying to steal the spotlight from him? A smile curled his lip as he remembered the way the man had floundered through his ponderous pontificating. What a contrast it made to Preston's own witty, economical—and studiously humble—speech. Who would be quoted in the papers tomorrow? Me, that's who, Preston thought as he accepted another congratulatory accolade with what appeared to be an abashed modesty.

I've reached the tipping point at last! My sonorous voice will be the vehicle that takes me to the pinnacle of success. His smile broadened.

The party had gone on long enough, however.  With the expertise lent by years of practise, Preston could sense that the peak had passed and folks were thinking about the after-parties. That was his cue: he looked around to find Jeannette.

Preston's personal assistant had been flitting around all night, working on his behalf, pressing the flesh he'd rather not have to press. Jeannette was perfect: bubbly, persistent and pleasantly zaftig. He spotted her talking up Rav Noonan, the producer of last year's sleeper hit and doubtless casting something new. Good work, Jeannette, he thought as, smiling left and right as if warding off bad luck, he made his way through the parting waves of partiers. Jeanette's ample breasts rose and fell with excitement as she gestured toward him, waving him over to the conversation. Her long brunette hair retained its perfect curls from that afternoon. He must remember to ask about her styling products.

"Wouldn't you, James?" Jeanette said with a grin, laying her hand on his arm which caused her silk blouse to part a little more and show a peek at her black satin brassiere. 

Preston smiled warmly at the two women, but his thoughts ran ahead with delight. It must still be tucked away upstairs! "If it's a fabulous opportunity to work with Ms. Noonan, then yes, of course I would be delighted." There were chuckles and more words, but his thoughts were racing ahead to the suite upstairs.

Noonan made a lot of grandiose plans and vague promises, but he took it as a sign that she said she'd be calling him the following week.  At last he thought the time was right to announce, "This pumpkin needs to go to bed, my dears. Actors hours," he said, his voice ruched with regret.

"But James," his PA said, her eyes wide with surprise, some of which might have been genuine, "there's the party UNM has put together for Grady.  You must go."

"Oh, my dear," Preston said, his voice filled with longing and just a soupçon of regret. He rested a hand lightly on her shoulder, where he could feel the strap of her brassiere just beneath the filmy material. "You will make my apologies to everyone and be your charming self. I'm counting on you."

Jeannette looked up him, her brown eyes wide. She leaned in and whispered, "You're not snubbing him for that tedious speech of his, are you?"

"Tedious?" he whispered back, giving his words a conspiratorial tone. "I thought it riveting."

Jeanette laughed behind her hand, her breasts jiggling ever so slightly within the confines of her undergarment. A warm flush rose up the back of Preston's neck and at once he was impatient to get away, but he had to play by the rules.

He willed his eyes to meet hers with something approaching sincerity. "I'm counting on you to make it clear that I wont be there because I don't want Grady to have to share the spotlight. It is his night after all."

"You're being generous."

Preston chuckled. "Indeed I am. But you will have to do yeoman's duty, my girl, to make sure everyone understands how generous I am." He pecked her on the cheek. "Good night—and don't worry about making noise when you come in. You know I sleep like the dead." Especially tonight, he promised himself.

When he locked the door behind him, Preston could barely stifle the urge to run at once into her room, but he took off his jacket and hung it in the wardrobe first, then took out his cufflinks. He began unbuttoning his shirt as he walked into her room, slipping through the door she'd left ajar this afternoon. Jeanette's table was strewn with papers, though her business card binder left an impression of neatness.

Preston pulled the top drawer open and there it was: the pink box with the name in script.  The black ribbon had been undone, but it didn't matter. He knew she had tried it on. Blushing she had said, yes, it fit, it was the right size, and oh, how extravagant he was. Preston grinned and picked up the brassiere, his excitement growing. His thumb brushed the purple silk gently, then he traced the black Chantilly lace with his finger. He didn't even realise that he had sighed.

He laid the brassiere on the bed, his eyes upon it as he removed his shirt and lay it on the bed, too, as if they were lovers. Preston picked up the brassiere, his touch reverent as he turned toward the mirror. He shivered as he let the straps slip down his upraised arms. The silk kissed his skin, its touch slightly cold, but warming quickly. Reaching behind he fastened the hooks, his eye riveted on his image in the mirror. It was a snug fit but that only added to his delight—and his excitement.

If only he had breasts like Jeanette's, Preston thought as he allowed his fingers to make lazy circles across the expanse of silk and lace. He grinned at himself. If you did, you'd never work again. Excitement surged within him as he pictured Jeanette's creamy breasts encased in the purple silk, getting nearer and nearer the breaking point, his breath getting ragged as his fingers moved more quickly.

Preston didn't recognize the sound that preceded the door opening—those damned little cards—but he couldn't miss Jeanette's startled expression as she stood in the doorway. What he must look like, he had time to think, his chest tightly bound by her brassiere, his chinos tented with barely contained desire.

"Oh god no," he whispered, but she already had her phone out and aimed at him. In the camera's click her heard the end of his brilliant career.

[For the curious, a link to Agent Provocateur's Stephanee brassiere featured in the story]


pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow. Something everyone, man or woman needs in their top drawer. And I love the woodcut. Wonderful story, Kate.

Anonymous said...

Kate - I love the characterization in this story! And the denouement is terrific :-). I really like the twist you added.

C. Margery Kempe said...

Wow, I just got to campus and already tow comments. Thanks, Patti for inviting me to be part of it. You know I'll take any opportunity to slip in something medieval. Thanks, too, Margot! I'm glad you appreciated the twist. I've been struck by how -- for many people -- the first reaction to anything unusual is to get that phone out and snap a picture.

Evan Lewis said...

Great job! I didn't see that jealousy coming. And Preston's downfall is delicious. This does, of course, open the door for a female character to have penis envy.

C. Margery Kempe said...

LOL! Yes, I suppose that's one possible tack, Evan.

Charles Gramlich said...

I second or third the congrats on the good character development.

C. Margery Kempe said...

Thank you, Charles. You are kind!

sandra seamans said...

I love this, Kate! I was expecting him to meet someone in the room - but not himself!

C. Margery Kempe said...

Thank you, Sandra! I had fun thinking it up. The timing was the most difficult part. It took a while to get it just right.

Dorte H said...


Oh, I loved that ending!

C. Margery Kempe said...

Thanks so much, Dorte!

The Queen said...


C. Margery Kempe said...

LOL -- I thought you might enjoy the "Stephanee" bra. Hee hee!

Dana King said...

Great twist, Kate. I hadn't thought of Preston as a corss dresser, but now that I've read your entry, of course he is.

Well done.

C. Margery Kempe said...

LOL, thanks, Dana. Hope I didn't do too much violence to your character. Such secrets we have inside us all :-)

Richard said...

I'm afraid I'm quite confused. So he's jealous of the bra? And in the next installment, the bra will be jealous of someone (thing?) else? Or? I'm afraid this rondel isn't turning out the way I was expecting. Not that what you wrote isn't just fine, it's very good indeed, but I'm not following the structure as it's applied to the rondel... Just me, I guess.

C. Margery Kempe said...

He's envious of Jeanette and her breasts. I think you can stick with just Jeanette :-)

C. Margery Kempe said...

And FYI, because I can't help being an English Professor, a little word on jealousy v. envy:

Jealousy and envy differ. We often say that we are jealous when we are actually envious. Both jealousy and envy concern the possession of something — an object, a situation, a quality, a relationship with a person, etc. — and both can be selfish or unselfish. Even so, they come at possession from opposite directions. In general, jealousy concerns the loss of what one has, and envy concerns one's not having what one wants. Jealousy often arises in personal relationships, and it concerns whether I want to hold on to the "object" of jealousy either for my sake or for the sake of the "object." Envy ranges more widely than jealousy, because it concerns what one does not have. The object of my envy could be anything — material objects, status, a relationship, traits, etc.

Richard said...

Fair enough. I was apparently mistaken in thinking the theme was jealousy rather than envy. In any event, well written.

C. Margery Kempe said...

Well, I went with envy because the other two stories were about envy. Perhaps there's a way to combine jealousy and envy...?

And thanks.