July 21, 2016 by Lyn
Valentine’s Day, 1922, Albany, NY
Maureen looked at the card in her hands for a long moment, struggling to find something tactful to say.
It wasn’t that it was in any way a bad card. It was, for a Valentine card, a beautiful specimen, with paper lace and flattering artwork, hand-made, with a handpainted, realistically styled, albeit idealized, watercolor portrait of herself (although she thought the fox stole the woman in the painting was wearing to be in a bit of bad taste, all things considered). It was just…
“No-one has ever given me a Valentine gift before,” she said carefully, to the eager brown eyes of the solemn man in front of her. He smiled in response, the smile of a poet that had so surprised her when he, every inch the buttoned-down clerk, first started visiting her six months ago.
“Then it is high time someone did, don’t you think? My lovely Maureen.”
She smiled sweetly at him, suppressing the urge to throttle him. He loved to try that possessive shit on her, more than any of her other clients ever had or did. “What will your fiancée think, Alphonse?” she asked instead. “This can’t have been quick for you; it’s lovely, and the chocolates look expensive.”
“Oh, she’ll never know,” he answered blithely. “Natalie is a nice girl, of course, but she’s a nice girl, if you know what I mean. It would never occur to her that I had anyone on the side.”
“Unless she checks the ledger books,” Maureen couldn’t help but comment. She kicked herself for the remark while she kept smiling at her over-eager fox-kit of a client; he paid well, generally tipped even better, and was, all things considered, a darling between the sheets. She shouldn’t taunt him; he paid her well to pretend to be in love with him.
Luckily, he was a bit dense. “Oh, she’s a proper girl, my Natalie is, she wouldn’t go looking into that sort of thing. Have no fear, my darling Maureen, our secret is safe.”
She let him kiss her; it covered up the smirk and the rolling of eyes she couldn’t quite suppress. She had no secret, no fear, nothing to hide. She was a whore, and everyone who knew such things in Albany knew it; she was one of the most expensive fancy women in the whole city, after all.
He, her silly little possessive darling, was the man engaged to the woman several steps above him on the social ladder, the man spending money he probably couldn’t afford on an expensive whore.
He was, she noticed, as he doted over her, the man who’d signed his own name (and written her full professional name) to the slightly bawdy and decidedly intimate Valentine. She tucked it in her lingerie drawer; it would serve well for blackmail later, if he ever got out of hand.