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Jul
22

IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BUSINESS

IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BUSINESS  Wasn’t it?   [Part 2 of 8]

 

Meeting day. Ronnie’s wearing her one and only business suit, accented by a red scarf and a matching nylon computer bag hanging from her shoulder. Striding into the lobby, she checks her watch. Perfect. It’s 2:35 PM. Exactly five minutes late. Can’t seem too anxious. She crosses the Hilton lobby heading for the restaurant, which now appears to be mostly empty. The maitre d’ greets her with a hint of a French accent, and leads her to Mayor Jonathon Steadman, texting on an iPad at a table for two against the back wall. That’s right. A table for two, not a booth as planned, with space for her Mac. Instead, she sees a dating surface where every square inch is covered by chargers, bread plates, wine glasses, bread in a basket, butter and flowers. The mayor stands as she approaches. Her first words: “I thought–”

“Me too,” Jon replies, turning off his iPad. “The booth I ordered, the party never left. They put us here.” Her eyes dart back into the room. Tables are vacant all around. Big tables. And booths for four. “What?” he asks.

“How ‘bout that one over there?” She points.

“I asked. They closed the section. But there’s plenty to talk about. Please…” He gestures to her chair. With reluctance, she sits, as he lifts the bottle of white from the bucket. “May I?” He pours.

Yep, she thinks. This is a set-up. Clear and simple. But she’ll keep it confined to this space. She’ll maneuver them back to business and the next stage of design, followed by the second payment. “Ronnie?” he asks. She reconnects. “You okay?”

“Yeah. Just thinking about how I’m going to show you the site without showing you the site.”

He returns the bottle to the pool of ice, which pretty much defines the air in their bubble right now. “So tell me more about your ideas,” he says, smiling his words while lifting his glass.

“It’s sort of difficult without a reference.”

“Explain the theme, then. You know, in broad strokes.”

He knows the theme! They went over that last week, and he approved it. Or maybe he just approved her, in his mind. She drops her gaze to the menus lying on their plates. “Shouldn’t we order?”

“Oh sure. The blackened salmon…to die for.” Cardboard menus raise to eye balls.  She’s glad about that. She can hide behind the list of appetizers. She starts scanning, with utter boredom. Any hunger she had shrunk with the size of this table.

“Do you think I’m a bad person?” comes the question from behind her paper wall.  She lowers it.

“Why would you ask that?”

“Well you know, with the smear campaign going on. You don’t believe all that, do you?”

“I didn’t think about it,” she says, doing her best to sound convincing.

“It’s all lies. Totally manufactured. Politics, it’s gotten so dirty. And all I’m trying to do, is DO the job…and keep doing it.” He waits for agreement. There is none.  “You believe me, don’t you?”

“Of course.” Up goes her menu.

“Because that’s what the new site’s about,” he continues. “Getting across that I’m real. And accessible. I care.” He takes another sip. “You don’t drink?”

Down goes her menu. “Not while working.”

“You make it sound so serious. We’re tossing ideas. Concepts. What I’m trying to get across.”

“I was briefed by Mr. Blau. And you and I discussed it last week.”

“But we didn’t finish. You need to know me as a person, because that’s what the website’s about.” He smiles again, more genuine this time. Or so it appears.

She throws a second glance back into the room. Where’s the fucking waiter? None anywhere! Her eyes return to him. He’s locked onto her face. “Mr. Steadman–”

“Jonny…”

“I’m only designing the layout. Your staff is writing the content.”

“But it’s all important! Because… You see it’s… What I’m trying to say is…” His face crinkles. “I’m losing the race.” And his gaze leaves her, with his “love me” twinkle. In fact, he’s looking sad, as he reaches for his glass and downs what’s left in it.

If there was any better time to leave, it’s now. Ronnie grabs her computer from under her chair and stands. “Mayor Steadman, I really need to show you the graphics. Your office would be a better –”

“Don’t go. I need to talk to you.”

Their waitress arrives. “How we doing here? Ready?”

“We need more time,” the mayor states, as if he’s talking to Ronnie.

“Sure thing.” Server girl scoots away, leaving Miss Stein still in escape mode next to her chair.

“Please,” Jon whispers. “I need to talk to someone…who doesn’t work for me.”

“What do you mean?”

“Someone who’s neutral, and fair…honest. I need your advice.”

“Isn’t that what wives are for?”

“Not mine. He bites his lip. “Jesus. I wish I hadn’t said that. You’ve got to keep this confidential. You have to.”

“Okay.”

“Please sit down. Just a few minutes.” She’s not sitting. “Please.”

Wow, she thinks. He’s actually begging her, with pleading puppy dog eyes, tearing now. She wants to leave. Needs to leave. But…

“Please…” he asks again, almost inaudible.

Everything about ‘Please’ means GO. But she isn’t. She isn’t because the mayor of millions of people is asking “Front Office Appeal” to pull him out of pain. And so, against her better judgment, she returns to her seat.

“Thank you,” he mutters, in a quiet, almost quivering voice. “And I apologize for getting emotional. I don’t know why I’m feeling this way, but I am…with you.”

She says nothing. What can she say? It’s best to hear his mea culpa and then run for refuge. “Ronnie… May I call you Ronnie?” She nods. “Ronnie, you wouldn’t believe the pressure I’m under. They’re after me. They want to kill me, my family, my entire future. They want to steal my respect, my integrity, my reputation, my heart and soul.  And they will stop at nothing to do it….unless…I give up. And I can’t do that. I’m fighting for my people, for a little peace of security after forty years of work, for the right to live in the home you’ve earned, for education to level the playing field, for an examination that could save a life from cancer… I’m fighting for so many who have no voice, or power, or hope… I can’t give up on them. I can’t walk away from the war. I have to stay in, even if it takes me down. And through it all, I can’t…not even once, to anyone, show how scared I am.”

“Not even your wife?”

“Especially my wife. She would shatter. And worry. And worry.” He shakes his head, eyes fixed to the menu entrees and their thirty dollar prices. “I can’t do that to her.  I can’t drag her into the fire. She’s fragile. Loving, but fragile. So we don’t talk about these things.”

“She doesn’t ask?”

“No.”

And now, with his head still lowered, he continues with…a sad silence, his fingers interlocked on the table as if in prayer. Not one more peep from the man who thunders impassioned oratory before millions. This white knight, this savior of the poor, is a lost little boy screaming for his mother hidden somewhere in the crowd.

And what is Ronnie now, beyond the underpaid web designer with the pretty face? Ronnie Stein, at this precious moment, is the First Mommy to the Mayor of money and power. The thought is validating. And yet, somewhere from the other world, the one where she lives in a depressing city room six floors up, comes a distant chime of clarity pointing her mind back to the picture, his picture, a cheap look-at-me invitation from a sandy volleyball game. If this man wants to be real, if he sincerely needs a confidant, he must explain that emailed photograph. Consequently, Ronnie asks the question. “Jon?”

His eyes raise to hers. “What?”

“Are you into cybersex?”

His face goes red, prompting another stretch for the bottle in the ice. He fills the glass, giving himself time to frame an answer. Swallowing, he returns her gaze. “It’s a distraction, I think. Role playing, in a harmless way. Mostly it’s meant to be a joke.”

“It isn’t funny.”

“I suppose not. Maybe it’s more about reaching out. I don’t know why I do it.”

“How many people are you reaching out to?”

“Not many.”

“How many?”

“Three… Four.”

“Do they meet you here for lunch?”

“I’ve never met any of them. Except you. Really, the job brought us together. I didn’t think it would end up like this. It just happened.”

She turns away, not at all convinced. He’s lying about this lunch. That’s obvious. But what about his work? Was that BS as well? Probably not. You can’t fake fear. Not like that. So the next question has to be: does she like him? Even a little? Maybe. He can be charming. But does she care about him? She’s starting to. But she’s been down this road before; a sexual advance disguised as opportunity. And if this is about sex, the job will surely crash the moment she says ‘no.’

The waitress scoots back. “Have you two decided?”

 

To be continued…07/29/2011

 

So what’s Ronnie’s next move?  And the mayors?  What’s your opinion about sexting and cybersex?  Is it romantic, ever?  What would YOU do it you were Ronnie?

 

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15 comments

  1. Mark says:

    I think sexting with someone you don’t know IRL is a waste of time. Now sending your significant other a text with a little hint of what you want next time you see them – that is a different story.

    Ronnie has to stretch out the length of time she can go without having sex. Don’t give it up to quick, or at all if thats what she wants. But if he gets to frustrated, he could lose interest in her.

    Get the opportunity FIRST…. then figure out the next move.

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Thanks for your comment, Mark.

      Sexting? Yeah, personally I’d rather use a phone. Or better yet, face to face. But the technology has changed the way many people communicate and only time will tell if it’s for the better or for the worst.

      As for Ronnie, well, I wrote a scenario that isn’t so simple as getting the “opportunity” free and clear, and the dodging passes later. Life is complicated and I tried to emulate that. So, if you stick with the story, you’ll see what I mean. It gets complicated. Like life!

  2. Writing Woman says:

    OK, I can’t stand Mayor Steadman–a steady man he’s not. And either he lies so much that he believes his own lies or he is so into his own power that he thinks he can fool anybody. But he shouldn’t be my focus–Ronnie is the one we are concentrating on. For a young woman, she has some wisdom–she knows that if she is straight with this guy about not wanting an affair, the job will disappear. She also realizes that she is a bit attracted to the scared little boy sitting across from her. And she knows he is lying about the cybersex. It’s addicting for a lot of people, cheap thrills with the added danger of detection in the background.

    The mayor’s next move? He’s doing just fine w/o my help! Keep on appealing to her maternal side, let her think she is the only woman he can turn to. As to Ronnie, I liked her when she took control of the conversation and asked her directly whether he was into cybersex. So my hope is that she is bright enough to stay one step ahead of him. Agree that the job brought them together, no one intended it to go further, but she has a policy she always follows to keep her business and her love lives separate. She needs to give her presentation in a business setting, like his office, get a decision on the contract, and also give herself a bit longer to get to know him as a person. Then if all lights are green….well, you know…..here’s my business card, Jonny, think about what you need and get back to me. Exit hotel dining room, don’t look back. As good looking as she is, he won’t be able to stay away.

    Sexting? Cybersex? I think that last thing most women are looking for is anonymity in sexual relationships. Women find face-to-face intimacy sexy. The guys will have to speak for themselves!

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      You don’t like Jonny? Well, I can understand that. But generally, people aren’t all bad or all good, and consequently I did my best to write the Mayor with shades of gray. Although, he might really gross you out as you progress through the story. This theme was challenging for me because the characters are so different than I am. It took some research to understand Jon’s motivations and deep needs. And although he lies to satisfy those needs, he doesn’t lie about everything. He does have principles, to some degree. You’ll see what I mean.

      Ronnie? Well there is a rule in writing that says when the tension wanes, raise the stakes. Put more on the line. Boost the contradictions and conflicts, which happens in the next segment, and ones after that. The push and pull of expectations and disappointments fire up a plot, keeping the reader in suspense. I focused on that up-down structure in this story. There is no straight line, for Ronnie OR the mayor.

      Will Ronnie ever get to have a legitimate office meeting? I’ll give you a hint. She definitely WANTS one! Keep tuned!

  3. Jerry's cousin says:

    We see from this scene that Ronnie needs to stick to her guns and insist that their business be conducted in his office. Once she gets to know him better, she then can make a decision about having an affair with him. Now, that is a big decision. If she is discrete enough, she may have a good run. She will have to decide that she wants the monetary side of an affair and not the publicity side. If she can pull that off, the affair can last longer, but means under cover. However, if she is discovered, she could end up like Sen John Edwards and his mistress. Exposed for what he and she are.
    The undercover affair could last long enough for Ronnie to build her business and make a name for herself that way. After she fucks his brains out, tires of him and gets what she wants, she can dump the mayor and move on, hoping he continues to protect his “fragile” wife. The other side of this coin is, she could really fall for him and really get hurt.
    As for cybersex, it works short term but wears out fast. Sending sexy pictures are a no-no. Someone in the future will probably use them against you.

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Well Jerry’s Cousin, can you put yourself in Ronnie’s position? Would you believe that, it’s ONLY all-or-nothing – sex for a job? Or would you consider that maybe you could keep the job and work around the sexual passes? This writer decided to go with option #2. I think there are many women in the work place who face similar challenges and walk that rocky road to avoid male manager advances. Ronnie is going to do her best to remain unharmed. Will she accomplish that? You’ll find out.

      That said, thanks for your response. Every comment suggests a different answer, a different way of looking at the world, a different way of solving a problem. Without your words, we would not have a conversation.

  4. Max says:

    Ronnie’s next move is to enjoy lunch, let the mayor(taxpayers) get the check, and get the heck out of dodge. Has this guy got a persecution complex or what?! Who is the THEY he’s referring to? And he can’t be open/honest with his wife? What kind of “relationship” do they have? Ronnie seems to pick up on his emotional under-development and manipulation tactics If she cares, “if she cares”, she should refer him to a psychologist or a mentor for counseling, either that or blackmail the shit of him w/ the pic!! Give the guy the lesson he’s so desperately needing to learn. Sell the story to the Post, use the money to finance her career. On the web no one sees your face!!

    The Mayor’s next move… well I don’t think this guys gonna experience instant realization about his behavior anytime soon. He’s enjoying the sandbox too much and participating in these games without the ability to reflect upon them. There doesn’t seem to be a moment of actual awareness or reflection about to him at all so it’s gonna be a long process. And one he will repeat again and again. Then he can go forth with his public apology, seek counseling, and return for greater glory as a redeemed person who has faced their demons or daemons. He might even be able to get a book deal out of it.

    Sexting’s cute, if your 12, which I guess is the new 32 or 42; something like that. And it’s ok to shot off the random wink to one’s “buddy” or beneficiary. As far as cybersex, until they invent some new interactive monitor screen I can’t really get all that into it. It seems to keep people focused more on the sex and less on really connecting and/or developing which to some can be a very scary proposition.

    So if I were Ronnie, I’d start w a salad 😉

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Hello Max. Referring to your first paragraph – think about the undercurrent of emotions, fears and moral stature of the characters rather than surface behavior. What is the core need of both Ronnie and Jon? Ultimately, it’s the same need. They want to be valued. Ronnie wants professional respect she has yet to receive because her beauty attracts men before her intelligence is allowed to surface. And Jon, for deep psychological issues going back years, demands constant validation. His behavior is a means to get it, as in playing the “victim” to gain Ronnie’s sympathy. Furthermore, if Ronnie IS a “good” person, would she want to destroy a man who is so emotionally vulnerable? Would you?

      Your second paragraph – WHY is the mayor in denial about his behavior. Why is he treading on the surface of himself? If you figure that out, you can apply that knowledge to understanding your own motivations and others.

      Your third paragraph – interactive monitor screens exist everywhere. It’s called video conferencing with iChat, AOL and Skype. And yes, the internet can separate people as well as bring them together. How much intimacy can grow without physical touching? More on that in later posts. Thanks for your comments.

      1. Max says:

        Hi Irv,
        I think if Ronnie is truly smart then she would use her beauty as a tool n show him who’s boss. What is the oldest profession? If Ronnie is an intelligent woman n gets a banana shot from some guy, then she’s willingly going into this situation. It isn’t being forced. And her financial situation is not life or death. She may need the money but she knows. Now if she’s going in with the intention of exposing Jon as a “sex addict” a political term made up so politicians can get out of the public humiliation of saying yeah, I’m horny”, that is something different. But she never says that is her intention.

        all I can say for Jon is Jon doesn’t sound emotionally vulnerable. He sounds pretty set in his ways:”I never meet any of them. Only you.” He sounds like he’s using his position, one of power, as the aphrodisiac it is known for. he casts a pretty wide net and sees what fishies he can pull up. He’s amoral in his approach because he knows this works and he justifies it by his standard,”I’m fighting for my people.” And he uses his …”fragile wife” …”I can’t drag her into the fire…” as cover. He is very calculating.

        I guess I wonder what forces him to face up to his psychology, if not blackmail then what? I mean come on, he’s begging for someone to tell him what he’s doing is irresponsible. And who better than a truly smart woman named Ronnie who sitting right across from him laying in wait?

        As for the NEW interactive screen, yes I know about Video Conferencing and Skype. I was musing on a “screen of the future”, one a user would be able to plug something into.

  5. car repos says:

    Hi there mate, I liked your blog. I was wondering if I could leave a link back to my blog about buying used cars. Do check it out if that is something that interests you.

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      I’m glad you asked if you could leave a link to advertise your business, but you already left it. I would prefer that you don’t do it again. Used cars is not the subject of this forum. It’s about writing and psychology. If you have a comment that pertains to those themes, you are gladly welcomed.

  6. Tim says:

    I don’t like cybersex at all. I think its a waste of time. I think Ronnie likes him, maybe just a little bit, but still she likes him. She would have left if she didn’t like him. Hearing him telling about his fear doesn’t create attraction for him.
    Irving, You surprised me. I thought the story will go differently. But now it is even more complex than it was before. Well done!

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      I hope I surprised you, Tim. That’s the job of the author, to write AHEAD OF THE READER, and yet remain true to the characters. To do that, the author must introduce unexpected circumstances from the outside of the plot, while keeping the characters consistent within their core values. That doesn’t mean they cannot change their points-of-view. In fact, they MUST change their beliefs in order to grow and learn and evolve. This is called a CHARACTER ARC, and it represents our life’s journey. This is why we love to read and hear stories. If they are created with integrity and truth, we learn about ourselves by comparing our own life story to the one we are reading.

  7. Candy says:

    Hi Irv,
    A little late to the party…interesting story.

    Cybersex can be as rich as an erotic haiku. It can also be base and lude a la Anthony Weiner’s weiner. The choice is with the originator.
    Personally, I’d rather not see the business.

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Well Candy, Ronnie Stein would agree with you. Personally, I’m old fashion. I like to touch what I see. And I don’t mean my own body parts.

      Irv

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