Excessive length warning
Also – if you’re reading this, shah8, don’t.
I walked into the office. Still no messages, no work, no anything. I lift the lid off the pot – nothing inside. I know the landlady will be by again soon, asking about the last two months worth of rent. Going to be another long day.
Suddenly there’s a knock at the door. I don’t really want to face her, but she has a key anyhow, and I’ll just look silly standing here not having answered. I prepare a conciliatory face and throw the door open.
It doesn’t take me long to realize that I’ve misjudged the situation. Leaf like this – she shouldn’t even be in this part of town. A gentle scent wafts to my nostrils. It’s going to take me a minute to bend down and retrieve my jaw from the floor.
When I finally manage to make eye contact, two things are clear. One, this is a reaction to which she is totally accustomed. Two, she has done a much better job sizing me up in the interim than I’ve done of observing her. Her eyes are penetrating, and she knows everything at a glance. Even more shockingly, she hasn’t cut and run.
“Are you going to invite me in?” she asks. I move out of the doorway and beckon her in, not trusting my voice yet. She makes herself at home, clearly in command of the situation. It seemed as if she would always be in charge, no matter what the situation was. But with that aura, men and women alike would follow.
“Did you make a wrong turn, Miss…?” I manage to choke out. She turns a wry smile on me that is clearly designed to turn off all rational brain capacity, and it’s working well. “Hugin sent me,” she said simply.
Ahhh, Hugin. Her name is legend around these parts. Nobody had ever made it out of this part of town – until Hugin managed it. Nobody seemed to know how’d she managed to break out of here, but rumors placed her in an impossibly nice part of town, drinking 88 Qingbing from a diamond encrusted gaiwan. An exaggeration, I had assumed, but if she could afford to pass something like this my way, perhaps I’d underestimated her meteoric rise of fortune.
“…and you are?” I probed, trying to gather necessary info without driving this opportunity away. “They call me the Ice Queen,” she said, gazing at me to judge my reaction. But I knew what had happened to my predecessor in this chair when he was unable to contain his mirth at a man who glossed himself the “God of Night Sweats”. He wasn’t seen for weeks, until the fishermen down at the bay started bringing him up piecemeal. I didn’t flinch or crack a smile.
“Shouldn’t you offer a lady a drink?” she asked, in a manner that answered the question. I decided I needed one too, to calm my nerves. I found in her presence that it went down immensely smooth, with a flavor that lingered in the back of the throat. After a few rounds it was becoming clear she’d still be going strong when I’d fallen under the table. It was time to cut to the chase.
Our discussions were lengthy, and frankly, none of your business. I was immensely comfortable in the lady’s company, but I didn’t have the resources to bring to bear for a situation of such magnitude. She left a memento “for me to remember her by,” and the taste even now lingers on my lips.
It killed me to watch her walk out my door, but I simply don’t have the assets to take care of a lady who’s grown accustomed to such a comfortable lifestyle. She’s totally worth it, but I’m just a man trying to make it in the cold, uncaring city.
If she knocks on your door, however, you should let her in. Treat her nicely, and you won’t regret it. As you sit in your chair, thinking of the unusually fine times in your life, if you don’t have riches or power, a day like that can bring a smile to your face when nothing else will.
And you can’t put a price on that.