Elizabeth 339 Ch. 03 – DeconstructionElizabeth 339 Ch. 03 – Deconstruction

Blonde

I’m frozen. Not cold, but immobile. I can hear the sounds of morning downstairs. Children clatter in the kitchen and a television shouts cartoons into an empty lounge room. Something akin to fear grips me and holds me pinned to the warm bed. I can’t even speak to call out to Lisa who I can hear singing in the ensuite shower. My breath comes in ragged shallow pants and sweat beads on my forehead. I recognise this anxiety attack. It’s not the first one I’ve experienced and most likely will not be the last. Knowing it for what it is does nothing to diminish its debilitation. So, I ride it out; shuddering in cold feverish horror at nothing in particular, just another day to face.

“Okay lover?” Lisa stands naked and towels her face. Tiny drops of water trace lewd lines down her pale skin. I see she’s shaved her pussy again, gone is the little landing strip. This seems to penetrate my awareness sufficiently to distract me momentarily from the imagined terror that shakes me.

“Diazepam darling. Can I have my pills please.”

“Oh…” She hustles to the medicine cabinet and I watch her arse sway naked away from me wondering how intense terror so encompassing it physically disables me can simultaneously co-exist in space and time with sexual interest. The first surge of blood to my penis tells me that as unlikely as it is, it is possible.

Lisa hands me a little white bottle and a glass of water. “Something bothering you? Is it work? Tonight?” She still believes after all these years that anxiety needs a focus or trigger.

“No, just the terrors. I’ll be fine in a moment.”

She eyes me suspiciously as she pulls on underwear. “You know, at any point you can choose to change the direction your taking. You don’t have to do, go, be, anything. You’re in control.”

“Sure I am.” I swallow down two little pills, “Some people ride the ferris wheel, I got on the roller coaster.”

“Would you have it any other way?”

“Not for a moment.”

Conversation and tranquilisers seem to have taken the edge off my paroxysms and I commence the daily rites of washing and dressing. The drugs leave me feeling wooden and robotic. Lisa babbles from the bedroom as I shower about babysitters and her own plans for the evening. She is meeting friends for a meal and perhaps some dancing after. “Masquerade… ballroom dancing…” are all I catch over the shower noises then she’s silent.

I dress in the grey pin-striped suit she’s laid on the bed for me and find the house empty. Children are gone to school and Lisa has left for work. A note on the kitchen table next to a jug of coffee reads, “See you in the morning. Love L”

Susan eyes me suspiciously as I walk past her desk, “Sleep in boss? Traffic?”

“Neither. You have nothing else to do?” I’m annoyed at her for noticing that I’m slightly off centre.

“I’ll fetch coffee then, shall I?” Her tone is clipped.

“Office fucking… Never shit where you eat.” I tell myself silently and bury myself in an in-tray which threatens avalanche.

“Boss?”

I snap up from the laptop, startled by the voice, “Susan, yes… sorry, I didn’t hear you come in.”

“I’m off… It’s almost six pm. You should probably think about heading off as well.”

“Oh… Of course. I…” I rub my eyes, suddenly hungry and aware that I’ve been glaring at numbers since the moment I walked in the door and snapped at this poor girl. “I’m sorry, Have I missed anything? I got kind of swallowed in things.”

“No, I brought you lunch. Did you eat?”

“Oh.” I notice the foam container on the corner of my desk. “I…”

“I spoke to you. You nodded… You looked busy.”

“Sorry. Thankyou.” I wave my hands in exasperation. I have no recollection of her even being in the office. “What else have I missed?”

“Elizabeth left you several emails then called my mobile. She was just confirming arrangements for this evening. I said you were a little distracted but that I’d get you to call her.”

“Damn it!” I can smell myself; a stale ‘sat in the one spot mustiness’ rises from my chair as I stand. “I need to freshen up. What time are we meeting?”

“I have to go freshen up myself Joe.” Susan smiles, “I have some plans for the evening… Here.” She takes my mobile from the desk and presses numbers into it then hands it back, “I’ll let Elizabeth sort you out.”

The phone dials as Susan swings narrow hips through the door and I catch myself wondering how the back of her neck would taste as Elizabeth answers, “Oh lovely, I was hoping you’d call.”

“Hi. Susan said…”

“Yes, she told me you were in a mood. I hope you’ll keep our play date Mr Smith.”

“Of course. I had diazepam this morning, it leaves me grumpy and tired.”

“Oh, are you ok?”

“Just some anxiety. Too many women in my life.”

“Oh, the horror. You probably don’t fancy seeing any of them this evening then?”

“Try and stop me.”

“That’s the spirit. Now,” she seems to shift gears and tone mid-sentence, “Listen carefully, ensest porno since you ignored my emails today you will have to follow some simple instructions. Are you listening?”

“Yes.”

“Firstly, take a cab to Elizabeth Street. When you arrive, there is a booking at the coffee shop next to the bar for you. Eat. Eat well. Drink the coffee that they bring you.”

“I’m kind of fussy about my coffee…”

“You will do as you are told for now. It’s punishment for ignoring me and you need to wake up a little in any case. You have a long night ahead. Have you finished being impertinent?”

“Well, I guess so…”

“Good. When you have eaten, go to the bar have a couple of drinks and relax.”

“I should freshen up a little… I may be a little late.”

“You may not.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You may not be late. You may not freshen up. You will do what I have told you. Are we clear?”

“Well yes, I suppose.”

“Suppose nothing Joe, do as you are told or do not come.” The phone clicks and the line goes dead. I stare at it for a good long moment and frowning I stuff it in my pocket in disgust. I hate that I am so equally intrigued and angered. With no avenue of protest, I wad my pride into a seething lump and bury it in my chest. I take my coat from the hook and lock the office and everything I control behind me.

The coffee shop is busy. The waitress is pretty. The food is very welcome. I had no idea I was hungry until I started eating. The blonde girl with pink tips in her fringe smiles at me as I wolf down the spaghetti and slaver over giant hunks of cheesy garlic bread. “A little hungry Joe?”

“Mmph” I nod wondering how she knows my name. A spider web tattoo peeks above her collar and she places a small indelicate looking earthenware mug of something like mud on the small table. I raise an eyebrow and she speaks.

“Cafezhino.”

I bring the scalding liquid to my lips and sip sweet strong perfect coffee. The pleasure must spread across my face like the caffeine through my veins as she continues, “Brazilian traditional coffee. Not so trendy as the Italian counterpart the espresso, but I was told you would like it.”

“I do. Thankyou. I’ll need a card so I can phone orders through in the future or perhaps a pipeline built straight to my office.”

“Haha, I’ve instructions to keep giving you those until you start becoming a smart-arse. I guess we are heading in the right direction.” She winks and her hips sway like an anaconda juggling stolen coconuts as she walks briskly away leaving me a fresh cup of my new favourite drug of choice. She’s very tall, my height at least and athletic in a sinuous muscled way; coiled tension and slow confidence in a black mini skirt and white blouse.

I sit and sip and stare across the street at the theatre that is costing my investors money and me sleep. It’s an otherwise dowdy building to match all the other dowdy buildings in the street. One can’t imagine it being a thriving street eighty years ago but there were once six hotels along its short quarter mile length as well as the central theatre and a plethora of small specialty shops. The theatre group wish to revive it somewhat for arts and local productions and have tendered considerable offer for lease through my investors. The benevolent trust, which holds title to the theatre, passed stewardship on to the city pending suitable tenders for use. The city has it currently listed as untenable due to structural faults and blocks my attempts to affect structural improvement at every turn.

A feeling close to ‘groovy’ fills me as the late afternoon sun splashes playful palettes of gold and red on the flaking façade of the old buildings and the last of the sedatives is hunted from my system. Once this was called “the street paved with gold” but the black and white photographs I’ve seen from the 1940’s don’t convey the play of afternoon light on the cobblestones which adds real meaning to the sobriquet. I thought it reflected only the financial importance of Elizabeth Street. Now, I can almost imagine the top-hatted men and evening gowned women strutting along the gold flecked pavers beside the glowing yellow sandstone buildings.

Paralleled by the financial centre of town and the business district, this old accommodation and entertainment street is a sad and almost forgotten part of a busy city that has left it far behind. The Queens Arms Hotel on the corner, now a boutique bar once boasted a hundred rooms on three stories. The theatre once hosted international performers and the first motion picture in the state. This coffee shop was the lower floor of the St Vincent’s Hostel, the cities only ‘dry’ hotel and has been refused a liquor licence ever since on some strange perpetual moral basis known only to the city council.

My interest now though is leaning toward the establishment next door, the small bar wedged between the old pub with no beer and the Palace backpackers hostel. I read her nametag and ask about the asyalı porno bill.

“On the house. Mrs Gaultierre is a generous friend and a wonderful employer. Tell her I mentioned that last part.”

“Thank you, Trudy.”

She leans in closely and whispers with her lips close enough for her breath to be wet on my ear. “You’re very welcome Joe Smith. Call me ‘Princess’ if we meet elsewhere… Elizabeth has such interesting friends.” With a sly wink, she drags my eyes and my empty coffee mugs to the kitchen.

“Joe…”

“Franco…”

“Whisky?”

“Please…”

The tumbler slides down the polished bar and comes to a halt in front of my resting hand. For a little while the whole world seems correct. As if this small arrangement of ice cubes and amber fluid is some weighty portent, I ponder it briefly then drink it down in one very thirsty swallow.

“Another, my friend?”

“Another, please.”

The next whisky arrives with an open question, “So, what’s on your mind Joe Smith? I’ve seen storm clouds lighter than your frown.”

“I am contemplating architecture Franco.”

“I’ve been a barman for forty-two years and that’s the first time I’ve heard that one.”

“Ha… I’m struggling with the spacial dimensions of this bar and the coffee shop.”

“How so?”

“Well, just now I sat outside the coffee shop and it goes back quite deeply, directly adjacent to where we are sitting right now but upon my last visit I walked through a small door just yonder and into what was definitely not a somewhere to order a café latte.”

“Ah…”

A feminine voice behind me startles me, “War, Joe… War my friend.”

“Elizabeth.”

She pecks my cheeks quite curtly and snaps her fingers, “Put down that drink right now and come with me.”

Franco smiles at my upturned eyebrow and I lift the glass to drain it down.

SLAP!

The glass flies from my grip and whisky splashes down the bar. Franco smiles and I rub my smarting face.

“What the fuck?”

“Enough, now… This way.”

I stand. I am confused and indignant. The fuck does she think she is hitting me like that?

“Now Joe…” she indicates the curtains and walks in front of me. I follow as if on a lead. I hate that but I do. I’m watching her arse in the pleated tartan mini-skirt as it mocks me with invitation and I know I cannot but obey.

Tweedle-one and tweedle-two wait at the door but a smile from Elizabeth and they don’t pat me down or take my phone this time. We walk through darkened rooms abuzz with hushed voices. The glass rooms are empty still like aquariums during maintenance. She takes my hand and pulls me along behind her. I count three curtained ‘air-locks’ between rooms and at the last we burst rudely into bright white light and loud conversation.

She stops in front of me looking me up and down, smiling to herself. “Very good Joe Smith. Now listen very carefully. I am not in the habit of repeating myself. If you make me repeat myself, you will be rewarded with some discipline. Do you understand me?”

“Of course my friend, I don’t know how I’ve offended-“

SLAP

“Joe, Joe, Joe… My darling boy. You have not offended me at all but you must learn a few things quickly. For example, you may not question me. You now understand that don’t you…”

I nod.

“Discipline is quicker and more effective than explanations as you will quickly learn. Firstly though, you need to know that three people here love you. They will care for you and nurture you. They are myself, Susan and one other you will meet later. If we discipline you it is from love.”

I nod again but I’m glancing about the busy room. Persons sit in all manner of business attire, chatting for all the world like it’s just another coffee shop. They eat finger food served by the pink haired waitress, Trudy or Princess. The ‘normal’ is confronting.

“I wish to introduce you to some friends. You will not speak. You may kiss extended fingers or shake a hand if they offer it. Okay?”

I nod again.

She places a tender hand on my still smarting face and looks deeply into my eyes. “Come Joe, welcome to our new world. If you have questions, touch my shoulder briefly and when it is a good time I will ask you to speak.”

We wander through the smiling faces and friendly conversation and I see we are heading for a table in a corner. I recognise Susan sitting with two others, a very fat middle-aged man who seems quite familiar and young moustached man.

“Heather dear, you remember Joe?”

Susan nods and smiles warmly. I drink the familiarity of her and must breathe almost audibly as Elizabeth pats me on the arm and urges me, “Relax pet. No strangers here, just friends to meet… This is John and Kevin. John, my new friend Joe…”

The fat man extends a small pasty white hand and limply shakes mine. I nod at Kevin who seems largely oblivious to me, wrapped up as he is in John’s attention. The nagging feeling gizli çekim porno that I know the fat man somehow plagues me. As we turn away from the table, I reach to tap Elizabeth’s shoulder in question but she answers pre-emptively, “Yes Joe, my husband the mayor… You see early on in our farcical marriage, he admitted a rather polar sexual preference to mine. It was troublesome on occasion but the club allows us both to indulge our tastes away from the spotlight of the media…”

I forget myself for a moment and speak uninvited, “Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.”

“Hmm, clever but not smart. Silence now pet least I must embarrass you with a slap.”

“This room is what we call “the green room,” she continues. I glance about but find no green. The room is decorated quite plainly. It could be a simple office with its beige walls, white plastic tables and chairs. A long café style bar runs along the rear wall and provides coffee, tea and other drinks. ‘Princess’, the pink haired waitress from downstairs offers trays of finger foods to people who look so damn normal that I reel with vertiginous displacement.

“In here, we unwind, chat, meet new people, discuss plans for the evening and explore each other socially without the masks and sexuality.” I nod but cannot help feeling the subtle tension of expectation in the room. “Yes, Joe… The suspense is part of it too.”

We approach a table in one corner where a tall blonde woman sits with an equally tall red-haired girl. The blond woman wears a light lacy yellow summer dress. Lisa has one similar. Her long tanned limbs hold coiled tension and heat. Her face is wrapped in a middle eastern style head dress allowing only her eyes to be visible and a long blonde braid to cascade down her back. For a moment I find them with mine and look deep into electric blue depths a man could drown in before she glances away.

“Samantha, this is my friend Joe.” The redhead looks me up and down openly and offers me her fingertips. I brush them lightly with my lips and smile but the fabric of my attention focuses on the blonde woman.

“Elizabeth, my great pleasure to introduce our newest prospect, Joe Smith.”

The blonde woman focuses on Elizabeth and offers her fingertips to me in an off-handed dismissive fashion. I anger, but lift them to my lips and press a heated wet kiss to them. I am rewarded with a sharp intake of breath from under the headwear before Elizabeth whisks me and my questions away. We find a small table to ourselves and sit. I am allowed a whisky on ice it seems. My mind writhes with questions.

“You have many questions no doubt. I will answer the most frequently asked ones first and then you may speak freely unless someone approaches, in which case you will not speak.”

I nod, still distracted. I glance beyond Elizabeth toward the blonde woman to catch her looking at me then quickly away.

“Elizabeth 339 was opened in 1935 and functioned primarily as a gentleman’s club and casino of sorts. It was run by Agnes Harding, the first Elizabeth, who managed the St Vincent’s hostel and convened the club surreptitiously, in the uppermost floor. By the end of the second world war increasing public pressure and the political aspirations of Agnes’s husband forced its closure. During the war years, air raid shelters were built below the hostel and it was into these that the club moved following Agnes’ husband’s departure from politics. “

“As the first Elizabeth neared her sixtieth birthday she felt the need to pass on control to a younger woman. She insisted that the convenor must continue to be a woman of such beauty, poise and elegance that she earned the love and respect of patrons. It has become our culture that subsequent convenors retain the title “Elizabeth” and are elected by past convenors. Past convenors keep the play name too along with the responsibility to support the incoming convenor as required. We guard the identity of the present Elizabeth closely. As you observed, even in the green room her face is masked while the rest of us do not don costume until we move from this room.”

“Yes…” She answers the question that was forming in my mind. “I was Elizabeth until my husband became mayor. I felt it necessary to protect the club by passing on my duties. Our new Elizabeth is particularly lovely don’t you agree?”

I nod and look across to catch the ‘new’ Elizabeth watching me. Her eyes suggest a smile beneath her headdress and she returns her attention to the red-haired girl.

“You may speak now Joe. Do you have more questions?”

“Oh. Yes. Many. Probably too many but nothing really pressing I guess.”

She smiles at me and I’m annoyed by the pleasure I feel at her approval.

“Good. Shortly we leave this room. Past those curtains is the locker room. There people don costume and masks. It signifies entry to an anonymous world and the leaving behind of social roles and status. Beyond those curtains we are whoever we wish. Remarkably, most of us are closer to our true selves when we’re in costume, after all, what is our mundane self but a costume we wish the world to see? All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

“They have their exits and their entrances…” I continue her quote and gesture at the curtains.

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