Cybele Mining, the world’s most powerful mining company, was intensely concerned with image. To begin, the naming of its company must have the right connotations: Cybele, the goddess who held the key which opens up the treasures of the earth. What could be more appropriate. Less important, but nevertheless symbolic, were the lions who drew her chariot. The directors were to be seen as lions of the universe.
When Cybele established its Australian headquarters in the boom mining town Sky River Downs, no expense was considered too much in making this a unique heart of its operations. The buildings were large and lavish. It would receive, meet with and entertain the high-powered directors of its joint-ventures and affiliations, presidents and prime ministers, all within the high security bubble it had built in an Australian desert, while several kilometres away its mining operations scooped up the valuable red earth for the ‘gold’ of the twenty-first century: iron ore, uranium, alumina.
The Board Room was second to none. A massive oval table of polished English oak wore a skin of green Italian leather; chairs, also of oak, had deeply padded seats and backs and arms upholstered in matching green leather.
The paintings were chosen by the company’s Public Relations Division rather than artpreneurs, since impressions were to be gained and deference delivered from the paintings in a board room. Everyone knew that. Except perhaps artpreneurs. Art was to be used as one would use people or land. Thus on the walls at Cybele Sky River Board Room there were paintings by Drysdale, Perceval, Boyd, Blackman, Tucker, Olsen, Namatjira and Pilawuk to represent Australia, Kandinsky and Feininger to please German directors, Cezanne, Renoir for the French. A gallery in the headquarters held scores of originals from which to draw paintings to hang in the Board room to please particular visiting direc-tors.
On this occasion thirty-two of the globe’s most influential men sat around the massive oval table to hear Chairman of the Board John Duckworth give his address on mining policies and practices. You could say these men, heads of world banks, joint mining ventures and super funds, ruled the world. Manipulation of interest rates, laundering money from arms sales and criminal organizations, hiding money for corrupt dictators were the modus oper-andi. No guilt was involved when God stood on the Bottom Line.
They were here to learn how Chairman John Duckworth had turned the Corporation’s mining venture, in which they all held a stake, into the most profitable and productive in the world. And they were here to have a good time too, since Corporation Headquarters was renowned for turning it on in a big way.
‘Gentlemen, you are already aware that the policies and practices employed here in Australia have proved the most successful in the world. I’m here to tell you how it was done.
‘First, we considered how to make the most of the workforce.
‘Australia is a vast country and its mines are lo-cated mainly in deserts a long distance from coast-lines and capital cities. This meant we had to instal infrastructure: rail lines and roads to coastal ship-ping. This in itself required a big workforce. De-signers, engineers, labourers and so on.
‘Getting them to come to such a hostile land was the first hurdle.’
‘You should get an Olympic Gold Medal for hurdling John,’ quipped the CEO of Acme Offshore Oil, raising a congenial laugh around the table.
‘I’ve had enough training,’ said Duckworth with a smile. ‘We got our heads together and devised a scheme, starting with offering workers higher wages than they might have dreamed possible.
‘You will ask how we got value for money, how we justified these heavy labour costs. Value for money meant getting every ounce of work out of every employee. If we flew the worker here, put him on twelve-hour shifts fourteen days straight, then flew him home, we figured on getting one-hundred- and-sixty-eight solid hours of work. Each man. He then had fourteen days off. We called it the Fly-in Fly-out workforce, FIFO for short.
‘We accommodated the FIFO workers in quite decent single housing built for the purpose near the site of the mine. Returning from twelve hours work, the men wanted no more than a meal and sleep before next day’s shift.
‘I can say that, in the main, the workers balanced the loss of family life against the benefits of the big pay cheque at the end.
‘There were a few, admittedly, who became depressed and aggressive after working under these arrangements for months on end. They wanted to set up home in the mining township. As we know, a man coming home from a twelve-hour shift to spend time with his family is not going to get enough sleep to give his best at work next day.
‘So we discouraged bringing families here by what might seem a curious route: contracts with every worker stipulated that engagement for work would be at the nearest capital city, in our case Brisbane. Workers were to sign and be flown out from Brisbane and return to Brisbane where they would sign for bank transfer of pay. There were to be no exceptions. The contract was binding.
‘This meant that if a worker set up home in the mining town, he had to fly to Brisbane to get his money, and then pay for his own flight back to the town, then fly to Brisbane at his own expense to sign on for the next flight back to the mine.
‘Of course, it raised the hackles, especially with the wives.
‘But if we’d allowed families to set up in the town, we would be pressed to provide infrastructure for the town; houses, roads, health services, education, emergency services.
‘As it was, we had to rush up housing as the workforce grew, which involved roadwork and services to houses. To compensate these costs, we set high rents, with a view to encouraging workers to share houses and to discourage families who would find the rent beyond them.
‘It hasn’t been without problems as you can imagine. The local council here, watery with age but fuming with rage, has recently presented us with demands for input into infrastructure. It’s already hiking up council rates far beyond services provided.
‘They of course, have got on to the State Government and the Federal Government, demanding something be done to sustain the town. Recently we had a visit from the House of Representatives Regional Australia Committee about this issue.
‘Our argument is that we’ve paid more than eight billion in corporate income tax and three billion in state royalties ... both rising as output increases. And now we have the carbon tax and a mining profits tax looming. Our lawyers will be arguing our case and we are confident of staving off further inroads into our Bottom Line, the passionate love-bed of business.
‘Our creed, and we owe it to our shareholders, is to make as much profit at the least cost. It is not to establish towns and infrastructure in a place so hostile as to have no purpose once mining operations are completed.
‘We face union objections to workforce practices, but their bosses are, shall we say, pliable. The officials present strongly, give press statements that workers want to hear, but we have enough butter supplies to ensure behind-the-scenes backdowns don’t see the light of scrutiny.
‘The other string to our bow is of course the “other workforce” and I speak in confidence - wouldn’t do to have leaks of a Wiki nature. Immigrants who are less than legal, but grateful for the opportunity of earning what would be in their homeland a year’s wage in just a day. And they work. I almost said “work like slaves” but believe me they are the most economically viable workers anywhere in the world. We do not discuss their origins, how they got here, but I will enlighten you as much as to say that they are flown in to our private airport here or picked up on the coast and brought in vans, avoiding the normal authorities. All that is taken care of by our Workforce Enlargement Committee which has diplomatically named them “guest workers”. These men live in separate camps well away from Australian workers; they see their accommodation as luxurious compared with what they’re used to - a tent in a desert within range of rebel bullets. They do not speak English and keep to themselves. They have no passports or working visas, and thus keep their secrets in fear of gaol or deportation. We provide them with our own form of working permits on which we’ve added the Australian Government insignia to give the look of authen-ticity, which gives them a certain confidence.
‘They know that when they leave this country, and only when they are on the plane, they receive a bonus of five hundred dollars, which rather seals their lips.
‘The media, without exception, describe us as greedy, inhumane, money-making bandits, We counter this with ‘Where would the country be with-out us?’ and list the billions we pay into the economy, the thousands of jobs we provide. Politicians like to call it ‘the two speed economy’, meaning mining is top speed and manufacturing and services are in the doldrums. We’re carrying this nation and if they don’t like the way we do it, too bad.
‘When media and government go too far, our strategy is to put out press releases and do media interviews announcing a slow-down of activities, threaten job losses, declining government revenue from mining, downturn of foreign investment. Soon puts them in their place. No government likes to have job losses. And they can’t afford to lose mining revenue. They’ve logged up too big a debt for that. It’s extremely doubtful they can balance the budget. They need us.
‘I’m happy to announce that all Directors will be rewarded with ... let me rephrase that: our Independent Committee on Outcomes has recommended an increase in performance-based bonus awards of two million for all Directors.’ Duckworth thought it better not to mention his own hike of five million.
‘Which I think, gentlemen, is a good note to end on.’
Hand claps all round as Duckworth took his seat and a sip of water, looking pleased with himself.
After a moment he rose.
‘To mark the occasion, there will be a special event this evening. It will be a bacchanalian night. Feasting as the Roman Emperors did. Costumes of the period and Venetian Carnival, masks will be provided since changing from one set of clothing into another helps one leave behind habits and inhibitions, allowing the mind and body to be transported to another age.
‘True to Roman tradition, there will be dancing girls and harps playing.
‘If I see you there, please don’t recognise me or each other. That would spoil the fun.’
THE JOB INTERVIEW
‘Ever done this sort of work before?’ Stacey looked the young woman in the eyes and held them. ‘Prostitution I mean.’ If she looked away, she might be lying. But then it doesn’t always follow. Stacey could remember blushing when she was innocent.
‘Ah ...’ The girl seemed surprised at the word.
‘Well, that’s what it is you know. Why dress it up with words like “personal services”, “relief massage’ and things like that.’
‘Um. No, as a matter of fact uh no. But I like sex. And I’m good at it.’ She laughed. ‘That’s what the men I’ve been with say anyway.’
‘Liking is a help. But it doesn’t follow that you will when it’s doing it for money.’
‘Is it that different from doing it with a bloke who’s taken you to dinner, bought you something expensive, like jewellery or a designer handbag. Isn’t that a kind of prostitution? Ignoble use of one-self.’
‘Well, I suppose the only difference is in the marketing. Prostitution by public offering of sex for money.’
‘Well ... I’ve been doing the same thing privately. Privately making it obvious I’m for sale - in a way. I meet a bloke in a bar, flirt, make up to him, accept his offers knowing he expects to be repaid with a night in my bed. No, I don’t see it as a great leap from that to what you’re doing.’
Stacey leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs in a gesture of relaxing, being ready to talk at length. The job applicant, Virginia, was attractive in an Australian way: a ready smile, good teeth, great figure with breasts a man would want to hold in his hands. Nice legs too. Not skinny model legs, but rounded calves and tight thigh muscles. The sort a man would want to wrap himself around - or have wrapped around him.
‘I needn’t ask why you’re doing this. Money.’
‘Exactly. I want to own my own home before I’m thirty. I want a heap of money in a short time.’
‘You’ve come to the right place for that. The mining boom towns are packed with pulsing, testosterone. They’re lining up for service. My god! Sometimes they come straight from the mines with their boots covered in dust and their pants unzipped.’
‘Mmm. Don’t fancy that sort of male. What about the misty vale and all that. A bit of theatre. Your ad did say intimate relations, acting ability essential.’
‘Relax. I don’t have men in overalls in mind for you. You have class my dear. Look at you. You might be any CEO’s private secretary, dressed the way you are, speaking the way you do. No, I run a two tier operation. And you’re for the top one.’
‘Still in the mining towns you mean?’
‘Sure, but men in Saville Row suits and Gucci ties. The business centre, where the executives operate. Top flighters from all over the world - in for a few days or a week or so for board meetings. We regularly have a famously infamous Frenchman and he thinks our girls are better than any he’s had in New York, Paris, Rome.’
‘Sounds exciting. I think I’d like that.’ Her thighs parted slightly; her clitoris thickened and her vagina moistened. She felt raunchy as hell. Was it her lively imagination, or was it how any girl would feel at the prospect of being a pro? Prostitute. Yes, the word ran a thrill down her spine. Being naughty was part of it. Naughty sex. That was it.
Stacey read the body language of the girl. There was something delightfully free about Virginia. She had a body made for sex and wasn’t ashamed to know it.
‘About that ad: acting ability essential. Why that?’
‘Essential, because you will be called on to act. To act your butt off. You see, our little establishment gives men a chance to play out their fantasies. These are men who have the ability to delay gratification; that’s why they’re where they are. Ask a man if he’d like one chocolate now or two if he waits an hour and if he chooses to wait an hour you can be sure he’ll succeed in life. What we do is all about delayed gratification. The instant-one-chocolate fellas go for a quick bonk and it’s all over. The two-chocolate fellas like to draw it out, a bit of denial, challenge to seduction, fight on to success. Same with running their corporations.
‘Most of them aren’t the handsome romantic figures of course; plenty of bald and balding heads, large noses and dumpy figures.’
‘What a man looks like has never stopped me. I don’t believe in love.’
‘It follows that their fantasies are complex, quirky. The imagination has no boundaries or doors. They relate their fantasies in intimate detail and ask for it in reality. At a price. They’re multi-millionaires; salaries you can’t count on your fingers. And they’re willing to pay. Big dollars. Big dollars.’
‘Sounds like fun. I love sex and I love acting. Thought I might go on the stage, but you’d never buy a house on that career.’
‘All top secret of course. These high profilers have to keep unblemished reputations. Scandal would be their downfall. And it would be yours too if you spilled the beans. You could end up dumped in a river. Remember that.
‘Seeing these guys in their suits and ties and brief cases coming off the private jets you’d think they were hell bent on getting to the board table and wielding their power and getting back to their wives and mansions. Don’t believe it. Wielding power is part of the reason they need to have their, well let’s call it relaxation.’ She paused as a thought came to her.
‘By the way, how do you feel about words like fuck and cunt?’
‘They offend me as expletives. They should be reserved for sexual situations; the language of sex. The word ‘fuck’ turns me on, so does ‘cunt’.
‘Wise of you. Men react the same way. Saying ‘cunt’ to some men gives them an instant erection.’
‘Tell me about the acting bit.’
‘It’s almost like a stage production ... you receive script and costume; the stage is set by our staging manager. When I say script I mean a general idea of who you’re playing and how to carry it on.’
‘Fascinating. So you mean, say, this client tells you his fantasy and you set it all up.’
‘That’s right. I have an erotic mind and lots of imagination. It turns out so well sometimes that the client asks for repeats. They come panting for it. The board room is just an excuse.’
‘All the way from Europe and America? Just for a dalliance.’
‘But for them this is almost the raison detre. I mean, look at Berlusconi. Prime Minister, vast wealth, owns the media. Why would he risk all that for dalliances? Because he can’t resist, like being hooked on drugs. His body aches for naked girls, sex and multi-sex, bizarre gatherings, pole dancers.’
‘I reckon he sees the poles as enormous penises as the girls writhe around them. Imagines his own penis there. I feel sexy thinking about it.’
‘Good. You have the right attitude for the job.’
‘Where does all this take place?’
‘In one of our frontier boom towns. Sky River Downs it’s called. The mine itself and the mining town on the right bank; corporate offices and private settlement on the left bank. One bridge linking and it’s guarded at the posh end to keep the lower classes out. Even the river is controlled.
‘On the left bank there is an impressive building called The Club. It’s owned by the mining corporation and as hard to get into as a high security prison is to get out of. Only members with a personal security card can enter. The entire front area of the building is a bar and restaurant. Beyond that is a gymnasium. All looking legit. And beyond that, my dear, is our bordello. No one gets through that door without a high security pass. We run our show below the main building. A small restaurant, a room with Roman bath, a secret dining room (about which I will tell you when the time comes), a large room set as a Roman banqueting hall , wardrobe section, staff quarters, sleeping accommodation, a number of smaller rooms for special productions.
‘The entire place is lavishly decorated, somewhat in bordello style to suggest decadence. There are locker rooms where clients change to whatever clothes they are ‘living in’ for the evening. Food is sent down from the restaurant upstairs.’
‘Whew! I’m impressed. But surely someone’s cottoned on to it. The media. What about the media? Haven’t they probed?’
‘Impossible for them to get near the place. Guarded bridge, river control. And even if they managed somehow to get to the bar and restaurant they’d get no further.’
Stacey gave an ironic smile. ‘And if they did - well, I hate to think how they’d end up. Those secu-rity guards are mighty tough guys.’
‘When do I get to see the place. When do I do a Fly-In Fly-Out stint?’
‘If you’re ready to start, we can fly out there Tuesday next week. Be here at nine in the morning. Three hour flight from Brisbane and we can stay over, back next day.’
Virginia walked along George Street from the Mary Street office and strolled Alice Street to take in the green of the Botanic Gardens. A ferry was ready to leave for Kangaroo Point, where she had a small flat.
At home she pushed off her shoes and wriggled her toes as soon as she sat down. Stretched her legs and smiled. What an adventure there was ahead. With the optimism of youth, she didn’t sense any danger. Just pleasure.
Six grand per performance. Huh. Six grand for having a good time. She laughed out loud, got up and poured a glass of wine and opened a packet of soda biscuits.
‘I wouldn’t get that for a week in the theatre in the leading role,’ she whispered. ‘Think. I could earn thirty grand for a five-day week. And that’s with just one performance a night.’
She knew one girl who earned a grand for a whole night lying on her back in a brothel. That seemed good money, she’d thought at the time.
Not that she fancied lying on her back and taking it and taking it. This would be different. She didn’t mind the fact that most of her clients would not stand up well against the usual vision of a romantic partner. How they looked didn’t concern her. As long as they knew how to satisfy her. Oops, she wasn’t being paid to satisfy herself, but her client.
She slid down the chair and parted her thighs. Oh, she felt randy. She half closed her eyes and imagined a giant penis swaying before her. She reach down to the coffee table and picked up a rubber penis she’d left there, and rubbed it gently forwards from the vagina to the tip of the clitoris. A sigh of pleasure. She was awash with moisture and pushed the dildo into her vagina and slowly, slowly rose towards climax; crying to an imagined man to ‘fuck me, fuck me’ she rose over the climax and shuddered. Subsided. It was good, but better with a man. I’m one of those kids who enjoys doing homework, she thought.
Today was Friday. Tomorrow she’d go and see her parents on the Gold Coast. Stay the weekend.
‘Ginny! Good to see you. Naughty girl, you haven’t been down in two months.’ Her mother hugged her, took her hand and pulled her inside. It was a modern house on a canal bank, in from the coast. No fences, lawns and roses. Most had a jetty at the back, which is why her father chose the place; he was keen on boating, but with the coastal conditions, it wasn’t all that safe getting out there, so he didn’t use his boat much. Mucked about on it and sat on the jetty, but not much else.
‘Dad playing golf I suppose, is he?’ she asked her mother.
‘Yes darling. Spends half his time on the course. Still, not much else to do here you know. I think we retired too early frankly. I’m bored to sobs at times. But what about you? Have you got a job? How did those auditions go?’
‘Nothing doing on the boards Mum. But I’ve landed a good job. Pays well too.’
Ginny didn’t flick and eye in lying. ‘I’m - a - I’m agent for High Tech Supplies for a big mining corporation out west, boom town called Sky River Downs. I’ll be based in Brisbane, keep my flat of course, but will fly out two or three times a week to do orders, you know, discuss, present new lines, all that sort of thing ...’
‘I thought they did all that by computer these days.’
‘Now Mum. You sound as though you don’t be-lieve me.’ Virginia’s guilt was showing.
‘Why would you say that? I only said I thought ...’
‘I know. I know. Sorry. Hey why don’t we go to that trendy coffee place we went to last time. Ten minutes walk.’
‘Good idea. We can talk there.’ Her mother sensed that her daughter didn’t find home an easy place for talking.
They ordered latte and sat in the sun. The more Virginia tried to hide her new venture, the more she stumbled in the wrong direction.
‘Hey Mum. Do you and Dad have sex often?’
‘What a thing to ask me Ginny. It’s personal. Why do you want to know?’
‘Oh, just wondering. Thinking about life and sex and marriage and all that. What I mean, then, do you enjoy sex?’
‘I’d prefer to call it making love.’
‘Well do you? Enjoy making love and how often?’
‘Really dear, this is not the kind of conversation I care to have with my daughter.’
‘Would you have it with your best friend?’
Her mother looked away and smiled at a passing acquaintance.
‘What I’m interested in is, what do you mature women do when sex dies out in a marriage? Do you masturbate? Do you have affairs?’
‘One just goes on without, that’s all. It’s not the be-all and end-all of life you know.’
‘But think, you’ve got years of life left. Do you intend to have no sex ever again? What a waste. What an unnecessary frustration.’
‘I’m not frustrated. Your father and I have a loving and comfortable relationship. And even if he ...’
‘What? Can’t do it any more.’
‘Stop this talk at once. I just wish you’d get married and settle down.’
Ginny’s mother, over lunch with her closest friend the following week, broached the subject.
‘You know Virginia asked me the most embarrassing questions when she was here. Did I masturbate, did I have affairs? What a cheek that girl has.’
‘Well, do you?’ asked her bemused friend. ‘Masturbate? Have affairs?’
‘It’s not a thing you’d talk about with your daughter.’ She laughed. ‘You tell me first. Do you?’
‘Affairs? No, but I would if I could. Masturbate? Yes. Some times. Been divorced ten years now, so naturally I feel sexy sometimes. And it relieves me. Now, your turn. Go on, ‘fess up.’
‘We have separate rooms these days since Bruce has trouble sleeping. So, alone in my room, I ... nothing wrong with it is there? Unless you’ve been brought up a Catholic and believe you’ll go blind. What a lot of nonsense. And all the time a lot of those hypocritical priests were having it off with young boys and girls in their church. Oh, the whole sex thing is a mess isn’t it? It’s supposed to be natural and yet we’re brought up to hide it, deny it. That’s why I can’t talk about it to Virginia.’
‘I don’t think that will ever change. One generation prefers to believe it was found under a gooseberry bush and goes on to sexual indulgence. Then it’s their turn to be thought indecent to have fucked to make babies. Seems your daughter doesn’t see it that way, talking about you and sex. She is rather sexy isn’t she. Always had plenty of boys around hasn’t she?’
‘Certainly did. Our place was infested with them chasing her. What worries me is, how many caught her. I think I didn’t choose an appropriate name for her. I was forever fretting that she might get pregnant.’
‘What’s she doing these days? Wasn’t she going into theatre?’
‘Has this new job managing some technical supply firm. Flies to the head offices of this big mining company out in the desert somewhere. Terrific money, she says.’
She sighed. ‘Well, I just wish Virginia would find a nice young man and get married and have children. I’d like some grandchildren.’
At which they both laughed heartily and finished their lunch.
The plane dropped altitude approaching Sky River Downs. There was a unaccountable beauty in the sleeping desert, sad, lonely, moon-like, until you could see the wounding mine below carved out in a half-circle with great tiers like seats for giants to look down on the actors: dinosaurs raising their claws as though in a fight to death, pawing and grasping the ground, throwing up immense heaps of gravel.
The iron roofs of the new housing estate melted almost into one, so mean were their borders. A swirling mass below, as building machines and cars and lines of loaded lorries churned up red dust.
The river glistened in the sun, the constant sun. You could see the corporate offices, spread over acres on a gentle hill right where the river made a U-turn, creating a private haven. Lawns and trees softened and cooled the modern buildings, roads were paved and cars on this side were Mercs and limos of a fashionable kind.
On one side of the hill, quite hidden from the other side, were mansions with swimming pools and gardens leading down to the river, where motor launches dozed at private jetties.
On the other side of the hill there were just three buildings that appeared to be connected to the corpo-rate compound.
Beyond the hill, the company’s private airport, available only to corporate jets. The main airport was three kilometres from the mine on the other side of town.
‘I had no idea this existed. Way out here in the desert. Look at all those houses on the mine side.’ Virginia and Stacey checked make-up and hair ready to land.
‘A car will take us straight to our destination,’ Stacey said. ‘The Club has an underground car park with lifts to the various parts of the building. No one sees who goes where.’
The driver loaded their overnight bags and drove three kilometres to the largest of the buildings on the southern side of the corporate buildings, From the underground carpark the women took a lift, opened with a security key Stacey was carrying.
‘Wow. Such opulence,’ said Virginia as they stepped into a large reception room: thick red carpet, Persian rugs, soft lighting, damask couches. All tasteful, but the overdone plushness of the curtains gave it an air of decadence, confirmed by the murals of ancient Greek bacchanalian scenes. Several sculptures of erect penises and female nudes in receptive poses invited response from the senses.
‘This room is your overnighter. Mine’s next door.’ Stacey opened the door on a bedroom that might have been in any good hotel. ‘Unpack and I’ll meet you in the restaurant. Door at far end of reception. Ten minutes.’
Virginia unzipped her bag and left it on the luggage stool. No need to unpack, just fresh undies for tomorrow. In the bathroom she laid out her toothpaste and brush and make-up gear, had a wee, flushed, washed her hands and brushed her hair.
She had carried, as obviously as possible without being too obvious, a brief case containing brochures of internet technology products, several of the latest iPhones, an order pad, business cards. She was, after all, posing as agent for High Tech Supplies.
In the dining room the women ordered smoked salmon salad and a glass of white wine.
‘Don’t eat too much for lunch,’ Stacey advised. ‘We’ll be having a sumptuous dinner tonight at The Club.’
A tour of the Bordello followed lunch. The Roman baths: a miniature model with several levels for ‘guests’ to sit at preferred depth, adjoining shower rooms, a massage room.
‘Bath and massage are compulsory for all clients,’ said Stacey. ‘They are given medical checks regularly - we don’t catch anything nasty. Don’t know where they might have been between board meetings.’ She laughed. ‘Naturally we have medical checks too so that condoms are not needed. Men love skin to skin.’
‘This is wardrobe. And this is Anna.’ A tiny Indonesian lady rose, smiled and bowed to Virginia.
Anna went back to her work, sewing a gown of silk taffeta, following a picture on the table.
‘This is the gown you will be wearing,’ she said to Virginia. ‘When you play Lady Hamilton for Lord Byron. It’s booked for two weeks hence. More of that later.’ They left the room with its wall of wardrobes, sewing machines, hangers and dummy models, one of which had been adjusted to Virginia’s measurements.
‘Don’t worry about security with these people you meet working here. They’re all illegal migrants, can’t speak English, and would die rather than be discovered. We give them fake passports, but they know we’d turn them in if they disclosed anything. They live on the other side of the river, where they’re known as cleaning staff for the corporate offices.’
She opened a door on a superbly decorated dining room with a large table and eight chairs.
’This is where we have Secret Dinners, anything from four to eight at table.’
‘Secret Dinners? What’s that mean?’
‘I’ll fill you in on that later. Very erotic my dear. I think you could handle it.’
They were in a wide passageway with doors along one side.
‘These rooms are Fantasy Performance Theatres, so to speak, where clients’ fantasies are brought to reality.’ She opened a door. ‘This one, as you see, is set up with a desk you might find in any corporate office, several chairs, a couch and so on. A setting where you will play the private secretary to a troubled mind. Nothing dangerous of course, just troubled by a fantasy that won’t go away. Highly erotic and my guess is, you will enjoy this one. Client due next week from London, where he’s head of a very influential bank.’
‘I wonder why it is that so many men in powerful positions have troubled fantasies.’
‘It’s exactly the power that causes it. That, and some happening in childhood that steers the emotions off course. Most of them lead conventional lives on the surface: wife, children, mansions, socialising, everything money can buy. But almost all tell me (with a screen between us) that sex with their wives is meaningless, unsatisfactory, they can’t reach climax in the domestic situation. In short, they seek sexual fulfilment with a stranger. Love doesn’t matter. In fact, they usually say they love their wives. But they’re living to the pattern set up by society, where reason over-rides passion.’
‘How do you mean, reason over-rides passion?’
‘Say for instance we consider the reason we have passion for sex. Pure reason would say we have passion for sex because nature intends it for the survival of humanity. Reason rules more dominantly in certain periods, like the Victorian era, where women weren’t supposed to lust and desire and to enjoy climax. Poof!
‘It becomes public opinion, the model to follow. Of course it was accepted that men had these foul passions and that there were foul enough women to open their legs for them. What rubbish it was. Things have changed by the twenty-first century and women can lust all they want without loss of character.
‘Like you, my dear.’