The  Website of Linda Leven ... Model   Actress   Novelist   Artist 
A Profound and Romantic Novel


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Chapter 1
Celebrity of a Most Unusual Nature

It was a bit after five p.m. on a steamy, blistering-hot but overcast October day—the start of the monumental New York City rush hour. The sidewalks were overflowing with workers heading back to their suburban homes or to some other distant part of the city since almost no one lived where he worked; it was the way of life in the “Big Apple,” as New York City had affectionately been nicknamed. Everyone was scrambling at a frantic pace to hail a taxi or squeeze aboard an overcrowded bus or subway car, very gently elbowing against the next fellow to grab a remaining bit of space, hemmed in by a dozen other harried commuters. The streets were a veritable tangle of stalled traffic going nowhere and through which weaved the ever-hurrying pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, horse drawn carriages, cycle-rickshaws and those annoying new-fangled skate-board riders.

Caroline, a seasoned and consummate New Yorker, was one of those bustling New Yorkers now about to make her way home to some other distant part of Manhattan. Number 2 Lafayette Street, the building where Caroline came each day to earn her meager salary, was about ten blocks from the “9-11” ground zero site where the two terrorist jet planes had dug into the magnificent twin towers. Although her building had sustained no direct damage, like all buildings in the vicinity, it had acquired a full set of threatening bull-dog looking security guards, all sorts of beeping and scanning security equipment, a fine white, mysterious powder lining the window ledges and all protruding pieces of architecture, and an acrid stench that permeated every one of the ancient but renovated twenty-one floors. Not only that, but now everyone going into the building had to empty out his pockets of all metal trinkets, present his newly issued company id and then be scanned head to toe for suspicious objects and explosives. Indeed, an aura of uneasiness and tension could be felt everywhere and assuredly seen in the faces and body posture of the guards and building tenants alike.

As Caroline wedged her way into the packed down-elevator already jammed to capacity with harried government workers and Wall Street traders eager to make their get-away from Manhattan, a tiny child standing nearby and now staring up at Caroline with gaping mouth, widely-opened eyes and timorous expression began yanking furiously at her mother’s arm. With her tiny finger pointed directly up at Caroline, the little imp began yammering into the deadly silence of the elevator as the doors closed.

“Mummy, mummy! Look at the scary lady … look at the scary lady … mummy … mummy …”

The child’s mother visibly tensed up, stood straight and tall like a soldier and stared straight ahead with a disdainful, cold and angry look, completely ignoring both the child and Caroline. But now, as the tension in the elevator instantly elevated a few notches, everyone who could, furtively shifted his or hers eyes to catch a glimpse of the woman who had just wedged her way into the elevator and who had instantly startled the poor child. Feeling all eyes surreptitiously scrutinizing her and hearing a few snickers from the back of the elevator, Caroline stood stiff as a statue and frozen to the spot as if she heard and saw nothing, and calmly waited for the snail-like elevator to make its slow descent to the lobby.

As the door opened on the ground floor, the herd-like assemblage of workers pushed their way out of the elevator sweeping far clear of Caroline on all sides as if she were contaminated with a lethal, contagious bacteria. But since she was quite accustomed to such scenes, Caroline, with great finesse, play-acted through it all as if she were simply one of the crowd and unaware of all the unsolicited attention that had just been lavished upon her. This scene had been played out many times before “9-11,” and it was still being played out—even in the kinder, gentler city.

Like most New Yorkers, Caroline’s first step in her trek home was a comfortless half-hour subway ride. Turning the corner on Lafayette Street, she joined in a plodding, bumper-to-bumper procession down the subway stairs, accompanied by an equally slow parade of commuters ascending in the opposite direction. Following closely behind a very fat gentleman burdened down with large bundles, Caroline made quite sure not to bump into him or touch him in the slightest way—an implicit and mandatory rule of subway etiquette. In the old days before “9-11,” even the slightest brush of a coat against someone could spark a nasty incident, and so Caroline, not really aware that it was a kinder, gentler city, tried to keep her distance as best she could on the narrow, ill-lit, dusky grey stairs. As she focused her attention immediately ahead of her on the fat man’s immense back and shiny bald head, she was passed by two young fellows coming up in the opposite direction. One of these young punks halted abruptly on the stairs, turned to his buddy and yelled out while almost jabbing his finger in Caroline’s face.

“Hey! Take a look at this, man! Look at this weirdo chick!”

His buddy, who had already noticed her, yelped out. “Hey babe … weren’t you in that movie Night of the Living Dead … ha-ha ha-ha!”

 Caroline, despite the hullabaloo, kept her pace down the stairs, but now all the exiting commuters on the other side stared and strained their necks, stopped and turned back to see what was so outlandish and freakish on the stairs. At catching a fleeting glimpse of Caroline, some smirked and sarcastically scoffed; others took up the cry with various insulting gibes.

“Hey baby! Halloween’s over! Too much makeup!”

“What the f—— is that? Yuk!”

“Hey! It’s a live manikin everybody! Get a load a this!”

 Caroline, hearing the loud sounds of laughter and jeers receding behind her as she slowly descended into the bowels of the Lexington Subway, imperturbably moved on, away from the intrusive, crass crowd, and then disappeared completely from view. She’d heard it all before, and calmly moved on, finally reaching the subway platform. With poise and self-composure, she sauntered through the crowd of impatient, waiting straphangers as all the men, women and children looked up from their reading or stopped their conversations and activities to obviously glower at her and make some sort of face expressing either their approval or deprecation of what they saw.

Chapter 28
The Best Laid Plans

Despite all the commotion, Caroline, was making good progress and had gone about thirty blocks down Fifth Avenue when she became painfully aware of a large, white limousine following along slowly opposite her as she went from block to block. It was immense, long and sleek, with darkened windows, moving quite slowly down the street near the curb and keeping abreast of her. Although this was nothing new to Caroline, it always made her a bit skittish since she, having an overactive imagination, always feared an abduction right off the street in plain daylight followed by a gang rape in some deserted parking lot or warehouse area. Caroline had seen far too many movies of this ilk, and so the ugly thought was always foremost in her mind when she attracted a “following” car on the street. But trailing cars were old-hat to Caroline, and since she had not yet been carried off and ravished by any car criminals, she always had to remind herself that if she ignored the vehicle, eventually it would go away.

So, in an attempt to lose her pursuer, Caroline stopped in front of a Duane Reade drugstore show window and spent several minutes pretending to scan all the advertised bargains, but actually watching the limousine through the reflections in the glass. Often when she did this, the trailing car simply moved on with the traffic and disappeared. However, when Caroline turned to continue her walk, she saw that the tactic had not worked: the limousine was still there. Her fear level now elevated several degrees. She began walking quickly, but unfortunately was approaching the less populated, often deserted blocks around 25th Street, and the car was still following. “I went for this walk to calm down … after that horrible incident with the marine,” Caroline told herself. “Now I have this nonsense! Hell! I hate when a car follows me down the street. I know I look a bit over-the-top this afternoon, but I really don’t need this. When I get home … if I make it alive … I’ll be a nervous wreck all over again!”

Caroline was becoming quite apprehensive and was hoping to find a store into which she could disappear for several minutes when the limousine pulled smack over to the curb opposite her and the window rolled down. Since there were some people standing around, maintaining her courage at a maximum, Caroline stopped and deliberately looked over at the limousine. A man’s face peered out the car window; then a hand motioned her to come over.

Instantly, instead of her usual fear reaction, Caroline was overwhelmed by a feeling of extreme universal hatred toward all the stupid, brash people of the world who could not mind their own business and had to be always making statements and maligning others. She was so tired of being hassled by everyone—even men in big fancy limousines! And especially today, when she had just endured a terrorizing incident with the ex-marine, her tolerance was at a very low boiling point. She was suddenly seething with rage, and told herself that this time she was not going to restrain her wrath and indignation, but would react—something she rarely did—and “tell these men a thing or two.”

“Let me just tell these idiots off!” she said to herself as she walked over to the edge of the sidewalk and bent down to see who was signaling her. It was a risky move, but she could no longer control her frustration and fury.

“Excuse me,” she heard, “but … might you be an actress … or a model?” The voice had a distinct British accent, was dignified and refined. It belonged to the bald, middle-aged male face peering at her through the partially opened window. The man’s deep, distinguished voice and kindly face short-circuited Caroline’s hostility, yet this was such a trite pick-up line which she’d heard numerous times before, she wasn’t sure why she had suddenly calmed down. Somehow, the question and attitude of the gentleman seemed authentic, coming from this very respectable looking person being driven by a chauffeur in a ritzy, impressive car.

“Well … yes … I do some acting,” Caroline responded almost as if she were at an audition. “Some modeling, too,” she added.

“My dear … take this card … please. There’s someone here who is quite interested in you. Please call the number there on the card … and we’ll be speaking quite soon I hope. Have a very pleasant evening.” The window rolled up and the limousine pulled off down Fifth Avenue and disappeared from sight.

Caroline stared at the white glossy business card she held in her hand. It was completely blank except for a single name, title and number in the upper left corner. It read: “John Iverford, Director (305) 227 – 6810.”

“What a joke!” Caroline laughed aloud. “What a great charade to pick up actresses! Now why would someone go through all this trouble! Damn! … the guy must be desperate … maybe rich … but desperate!” She crumpled up the card and dropped it in her bag.

John Iverford was one of Hollywood’s most famous directors. He was relatively young, maybe in his fifties, and had already won two Oscars for his films, Only the Heart of Loneliness and My Despair over June, both philosophical and psychological films about ordinary people doing ordinary things, but quite complex and profound. He was a cross between a very serious Woody Allen and a David Lean. Caroline was aware that since the terrorist attack and rebuilding of New York City, the mayor, in his efforts to put New York back on track and on top, was spending much time and money courting and luring the film industry back to the city. Caroline herself had noticed the increase in the number of films shooting in the city; she had auditioned for many of them but with no success. So, it was quite possible that John Iverford could be in town, but that he would pull up in a limousine and hand her his card through one of his assistants was pretty ridiculous. Caroline put the whole incident out of mind, continued her walk home and completely forgot about the card lying at the bottom of her bag.

Chapter 13
American Airlines: Flying Too High

Nevertheless, despite her profound regret at pushing him out, Caroline led her date to the door. As they approached the end of the hallway, Caroline walked ahead of Rich so that she could conveniently handle all the door locks. He, like a gentleman, stood close behind her, silent, watching as she undid the four locks, each one bringing them closer to a final farewell. Caroline was violently battling with her conscience as she deliberately and slowly opened one lock after the other. “Damn! Why did I do this! I don’t want him to leave,” she told herself. “Why did I spout out all that ridiculous nonsense about another date? I should have just admitted that I wanted him … but I suppose I should test him … see if he’ll come back. I’m pretty sure he won’t ever be coming back. But … maybe he likes me enough that he will.” She was confronting that familiar, age-old predicament: head or heart? Back and forth, she kept mentally changing positions as their time together dwindled down to only a few minutes.

Rich, on the other hand, was perfectly composed. He had decided to allow her to set the pace and tone, for he had all intentions of returning to her despite an abrupt ending to the evening. Ultimately, he knew they would be lovers, and so he simply stood there, very close behind her as she worked her way slowly through the four locks. Caroline could feel his breath on the back of her neck and the slight brush of his pilot’s leather jacket along her back. She quivered all over at the thought of his nearness. “Will he make advances now? Take me, Rich Adams! Take me! You have me. Just touch me,” she repeated over and over to herself, wanting to scream it out, but not daring. Would he sense her thoughts and do something—anything to save the evening and bring them together, these two apparently strong-willed and emotionally in-control people.

But nothing happened, and Caroline opened the last of the four locks and slowly reached for the door chain. Even as she slid back the thick, steel chain—the last obstacle to opening the door—slowly, ever so slowly, procrastinating, delaying, in the hopes that he would react, still he did nothing. He moved not a single breath closer to her. They stood together in the darkened narrow hallway, he so close behind her that her pulse quickened and her thighs felt his lover’s gentle touch upon them. But alas! It was all in Caroline’s melodramatic imagination. He was not making love to her; he was leaving. She had only now to reach for the doorknob and turn it. Nothing else remained but to open the door and allow this man, now her dream lover, to walk out of her life forever.

And so she reached for the doorknob. But instead of opening the door, impulsively, she gracefully and in a single movement, backed into him, arching her back like an alley cat, ever so slightly, such that her buttocks pressed directly, tightly against him. It was such a perfectly executed movement and such a clear, deliberate signal, that instantly, his arms went about her pelvis, his hard erect penis drove into her buttocks, and she felt his mouth, his soft, velvety lips pressed against the back of her neck in tender, but still restrained caresses. Their nearness in the darkened hallway had been more than enough for both of them. They were on the edge of the abyss together only for an instant before they plunged in, headlong, with no constraints, no concerns for anything but the two of them locked there together, alone, body against body.

Feeling her in his arms moving back, back, tighter against him as if she would melt into him, Rich, at that instant, wanted her more than he had ever wanted any woman in his life. He knew that she was aflame, overflowing with her female sex and feverishly hot with raw, undisguised sexual desire for him. Holding her pelvis tight with both hands from behind, he gently pulled her whole body back against him in a tight grip of desire. With grace and precision, Caroline rubbed her lithe, limber body against his, gyrated her buttocks around and around, pressing it into the grooves and curves of his hard body until she heard him breathing deeply and felt the heat of his body searing her back.

Now he grabbed her long auburn hair, flung it aside and began passionately kissing the back of her frail, white neck, up and down, moving his mouth ever closer to hers as she turned her face in an attempt to meet his lips. Once set loose, she was shameless and unstoppable. As his full, lush lips moved along her neck, she absorbed the sex of his masculine body pouring into hers. With a wild, ruthless wrenching movement, he again brutally grabbed her by the hair, twisted her head around such that she was forced to slide around in his tight embrace and face him. There eyes met for only an instant before their lips locked in a blazing kiss, an untamed, voluptuous kiss that had surely been born over two years ago when they had first met.

And with their first ravishing kiss, the imprisoned desires between them were unleashed. They wanted each other, and it was going to happen this evening; it was going to be one of those very special evenings that occur rarely, but leave indelible memories for a lifetime. At that moment, in his arms, with his lips on her, Caroline vowed to herself that she would give him whatever he wanted of her. Nothing would be forbidden or held back. She wanted to be all for him; she wanted him to remember her long after they were apart; she wanted him to remember every turn and twist of her body against his, remember how she felt, how she tasted when he was in the sweetest spot of maximum pleasure. Tonight, regardless of whether or not he ever returned to her again, she would do his bidding, because, what he wanted, she also wanted.

After all, they were not children, but two consenting adults. They were not required to report and justify their behavior to mother or a god or some other omnipresent and omniscient authority. If they had no scruples and not a pang of conscience, then so be it. They were two adults doing exactly as they pleased: seizing the moment and the pleasures it offered. In spite of his wife, in spite of the children waiting for daddy to come home, in spite of her faithful boyfriend, they would become lovers, and wherever it might lead, if never beyond this one night together, was of no consequence. Nothing signified but the here and now of the evening. The kisses flowed like red-hot lava, growing more and more lustful with each passing minute; it were as if they wanted to consume one another. The unquenchable fire that had been ignited between them seemed destined to burn long and intense.

Still cornered in the darkened hallway, Rich pinned her against the unlocked door as they both hungrily joined their lips and bodies in endless long soul kisses. His tongue danced in her mouth, then hers in his, his hands groped across her body, anywhere he could reach and touch without their lips parting for a single second. Her lips ached as he violently sucked at them, desperately trying to drain every bit of fire, the pent up lust, from her body. And Caroline answered back in kind, offering him everything of which she was physically and emotionally capable.

Minutes passed. It seemed like a fleeting eternity that they were sheltered in that dimly-lit, narrow hallway of Caroline’s apartment, clinging to each other in a tight embrace of sexual passion. Before giving herself to him, silently, without really asking, Caroline inwardly was crying out for reassurance—some sign from him that he was genuine and would come back for her, over and over again. And without her saying a word, he seemed to know and offered the praise for which she hungered. He spoke ever so softly, gently now kissing and whispering into her ear the only appropriate words and the only thoughts Caroline wanted from him before her fate was sealed.

“I’ve waited a long time for this, Caroline,” he murmured. “I wanted you from the very moment I saw you two years ago. And now I’ve got you … for as long as we both want each other … my beautiful darling Caroline.”

“I guess I didn’t know how much I wanted you, too,” she softly whispered back, her voice quivering from the intense emotion she was feeling. “And I do want you so badly. I feel good in your arms, Rich … so good, so complete. It’s right … I know it’s going to be so right for both of us.”

With that affirmation, he slowly led Caroline away from the door. Pressing her body tightly to his, he walked with his new mistress toward the bed, all the while pressing voluptuous kisses along her neck and on her soft, small breasts. Never had he felt so sure that Caroline was the right woman to give him all that was missing in his life. Finally, he would have that which he had so patiently awaited and dreamt of for so many years: a passionate and loving mistress, always eagerly awaiting his return, always awaiting his tender touch and passionate kisses … down there, as he flew over the glistening expanse of the city that was the center of the world. It would soon become the center of his world.

When Rich left Caroline’s apartment later that evening, he knew that he had found the woman he’d been searching for in city after city across the country for almost a decade. His route had changed four or five times since he had become a pilot for American Airlines, and in each city into which he flew, he had made an effort to establish a relationship with a woman. But it was difficult because he could not allow himself to lie about his situation and what he was seeking. The women he encountered, especially those in San Francisco and San Diego, had had no interest in a married man and had gracefully eased out of the situation at the first hint that he was married with a wife and two children. Correctly he had suspected that it would take a New York woman to give him what he wanted and accept fully his circumstances. And now he knew that his hunch had been correct. “New York women are much more sophisticated than in any other part of the country,” he thought as he stood outside of her apartment building attempting, with the doorman, to hail a cab. “Or … maybe I just got lucky at last!” he joked to himself.

But he didn’t care to do any profound analysis at the moment. It was late for him, and he was much too exhausted to think clearly. Besides, he had to get back to the Brooklyn apartment where the airlines housed their pilots overnight. Tomorrow he would fly to the coast, spend a day there and then be back. As a pilot for a big commercial airlines, flying back and forth between New York and Los Angeles, it was imperative that he be rested, alert and in tip-top shape. But now, with a woman like Caroline in his life, he felt he could take on anything. What matter that he would be a bit tired tomorrow morning when he headed out to the airport for his early morning flight.

As he hailed a cab and headed to Brooklyn, he daydreamed about the many coming days and evenings he would spend with his new love in their undisclosed intimate paradise. He had told her, and they had day-dreamed together: it would be just the two of them spending glorious evenings and afternoons together. When he flew in from the coast, he’d rush to her, be with her as much as possible, maybe even sleep over at her apartment or occasionally, when it could be arranged, spend a full day with her going to museums, some shows, or just walking together in Central Park. In the evenings, if it pleased them, they might head off for a pub or a jazz club. He would allow nothing to impinge upon their perfect love nest. There, with her, he would forget about the pressures of his job, his family and his tightly squeezed finances; he would spend a perfect evening without yapping children demanding his attention and a super-sensitive, rather matronly looking and acting wife whose feelings he had to consider with every word he uttered. Caroline would lovingly always be at his side. With her quick wit and intelligence, her beauty and sexuality, her charm and verve for life, she would be ready and willing to discuss whatever topic he cared to discuss or, on the other hand, do whatever pleased him at the moment. He likewise would give in to her wishes and needs. They had talked about it … and dreamed about it. Their only concern need be for themselves … together.

Of course, he and Caroline had agreed on all terms; they each were clear on what precisely the relationship would be, and Caroline had no illusions or qualms about it. Everything was open and above-board. They had placed their cards on the table and been in perfect agreement that this was the type of relationship each of them was seeking. Besides, Rich realized that he really liked this woman—maybe not love, but he was certainly enamored of her and desired her physically. Her body was phenomenal, her love making was wild and unrestrained and her personality was absolutely fascinating. For him, everything was perfect, and he was truly a happy man as he hopped into a taxi and headed for Flatbush.

Caroline, like Rich, was also euphoric over their newly established relationship; she couldn’t have asked for a more perfect evening with a more perfect man. After he left, she couldn’t stop replaying the whole night over and over in her mind’s eye. She didn’t want to forget a moment of it, but hoped to bottle it up in her dreams forever like a fine Parisian perfume that she could, in the passing years, take out and enjoy a tiny drop at a time. It had been an electrifying and completely intoxicating night, and she knew she would never forget it. He’d been gone only a few minutes, and even now, the rapture was as if in a fairy-tale ballet. She had sailed over the stormy seas for so long; it was her due now to find him and enjoy him.

Indeed, he had been the most perfect lover. After several hours of passionate love-making which knew no restraints, reserve or temperance, unlike many men who then abruptly become quite indifferent to their woman, Rich had held Caroline in his arms, cuddled with her, told her amusing anecdotes about the airlines industry and talked about their relationship and what he hoped it would be for both of them. “Darling,” he had whispered, “I’m so happy we’ve finally gotten together. I know you want to see your lover at least once a week, and I can easily do that. No problem at all! I can even stay here with you overnight when I fly in. Just imagine sleeping together all night … holding each other. I don’t need to stay at that drab, depressing Brooklyn apartment with pilots barging in and out at all hours of the day and night. We’ll be able to go to dinners together, spend evenings in some good blues bars … there are a lot of places here in the city I’ve always wanted to visit … we’ll just have some marvelously romantic evenings on the town. You know, I can even take you with me on some of my trips. Why, we might end up in San Diego or Los Angeles together! We’ll have a great time … whether it be the Big Apple or the West Coast. We’re going to have such terrific times together … really, darling … you do believe me, don’t you?”

She had smiled and laughed aloud when he had spoken of their travels to the coast, since she hadn’t yet told him of her inordinate fear of flying. In his ardor, he had hugged and kissed her again and again; he just seemed so grateful and hopeful that it would all work so well.

As for Caroline, after the love-making, she had cuddled-up, pressed tight against his nude body and listened to his castle-spinning. It was as if she were playing the lead in a five star romantic movie or a television daytime soap opera. She truly believed, as did Rich, that their relationship was going to be a torrid, illicit affair of the heart and bring to each of them that which they had both been unsuccessfully seeking for so long. And of course, for Caroline, his being a pilot made it even that much more glamorous. Nevertheless, as she had lain there wrapped in his arms listening to all his plans for the two of them, she had not been thinking of their future. She had only wanted him to desire her and make love to her over and over again. She felt that she could never tire of his affections and all the attention he lavished upon her.

And then, she recalled, even when the love-making and planning of their relationship had exhausted them both, she had immensely enjoyed talking to him and listening to his tales about the life of a commercial airlines pilot—all the dangerous adventures he had weathered. He had regaled her with such entertaining anecdotes that she had felt sure she could listen to him forever and never be bored. And he seemed to enjoy her company equally. He had gone into paroxysms of laughter when she narrated her repertory of tales regarding her recent and past blind dates.

“Until you come back, Rich,” she had told him, “every minute of every hour I’ll be day-dreaming of being in your arms and drinking in all your flaming kisses. I really don’t want this evening to end; I’m so happy. You know, we should have been together two years ago.”

“Oh! You’re so poetic, Caroline! I like that in you,” he had laughed. “Yes, of course … I don’t want it to end either, but it is getting late for me … almost ten,” he had whispered as he glanced over at the clock. “I’ve got to fly out at eight tomorrow morning. You know I have to be alert. But, let’s see … I’ll be back the day after tomorrow. I can stay an extra day in the city then. My wife has no idea when I’m due back. I can go home Saturday, and we can spend Friday evening together. How’s that?”

It was going to be so easy for him. She was sure, as was he, that it was going to work beautifully, and he would be there for her once a week as he promised. And this week—a bonus: they would spend two days together, a kind of celebration of their new relationship.

With that idea in place and the plans for Friday set, the two love-birds had reluctantly moved out of their warm, cozy bed. At a few minutes after ten, he left, feeling a bit apprehensive about the time and whether he could get back to Brooklyn in time for a good night’s sleep before his early flight. Because Caroline realized how imperative it was for him to get enough sleep, she hadn’t expressed any regrets regarding the somewhat abrupt end of their evening. She didn’t want feelings of guilt to poison their relationship. Before leaving, they had shared an affectionate embrace at the door—no provocative kisses that might have lead to a delayed departure. Rich had called out from the hallway that he would be seeing her Friday, as soon as he got back into New York. And with those final words, Caroline’s new lover had disappeared into the elevator.

It had been the best evening in months, for Caroline had, as usual, expected so little and received everything she wanted. Now, however, she was wondering how she could possibly get through the intervening days until Friday when she would be, once again, with her new sweetheart. “At last,” she thought, “I’ve hit the mark … bull’s-eye! It’s been an arduous task, but I’ve really done it this time!”

Chapter 24
A Meeting With a Notorious Gentleman

As Caroline and Lance sat with their coffee and pastries at a ritzy bistro near Trump Tower, Lance immediately launched into a story about his latest venture with a naïve, young Indian girl whom he had met in an elevator. Because of his stunning, elegant appearance, Lance met women everywhere. His current adventure he described as still being in the harmless flirtation stages because the young woman had recently arrived in the United States from India, was quite religious and to be married when she returned to her native country.

“But I’ll get her … I know I will,” he laughed sardonically, his limpid, sky-blue eyes sparkling with excitement. “She definitely wants me. It’s just that she’s promised to someone back in India and will be going there in a year to meet him and marry. But I’ll take her and break her well before that, Caroline … she’s a virgin, of course,” he grinned wickedly. “I can’t wait to break her … and you know … I’ll get her pretty soon. She’s weakening … quivers when I come near her. So … anyway …what are you up to? Still doing that stupid, waste of time internet dating?”

Caroline recoiled. She didn’t want to hear what probably was the truth: that it was a waste of her time. The search so far had been unproductive, yet, it was wonderfully convenient and even though she hadn’t yet met anyone, she had certainly been through some bizarre happenings and met some very strange men. And of course, there had also been a few heart-rending ordeals.

“You’re probably right, Lance. But it’s just so easy and convenient … kind of ‘let your fingers do the walking’ … and well … I feel I’m going to get lucky real soon and hit the jackpot,” she lied to him. “You just wait and see!”

“Ah … those guys on the internet are all losers,” he quipped. “You must have figured that out by now. Give it up, Caroline. Besides, I guarantee, one day you’re going to get raped … right there in your own apartment. Then I’ll be reading about you in the Post!”

Caroline had become jaded and inured to all the negative criticism. No one—not one of her friends, relatives, acquaintances, or work colleagues—had ever offered a positive word of encouragement. All she ever heard was the “doom and gloom” analysis of her nightly doings. As best she could, Caroline changed the topic with her friend, Lance, and then proceeded to have a pleasant lunch as she listened to his numerous tales of intrigue and lust.

It was only a few months after this conversation with her ex-lover, Lance, that Caroline received an enigmatic call from an internet date, a call which she knew Lance would bless as being quite up to snuff. Certainly, the gentleman caller was not the typical internet loser which Lance liked to conjure up and fling in Caroline’s face with malicious glee. This caller, a much older gentleman than most of Caroline’s dates, was loud, vain and a braggart—flaunting his own self importance. The first conversation which Caroline attempted to pursue with him had an element of mystery about it—that is, if she could believe anything that she was hearing.

“And so … what is it that you do?” Caroline asked almost immediately, because from the start of their conversation, her caller seemed to continually allude to his iconoclastic, irreverent career and who he was as something quite out of the ordinary. Usually Caroline had no particular interest in what her dates did each day to earn their bread, but with this enigmatic caller, the question arose early in the conversation and when finally answered, guaranteed that Caroline would be meeting him very soon. No doubt, if the twin questions of who he was and what he did had remained unexplored and Caroline had heard only his physical description, she would have gone no further.

“So you really need to know who I am, do you? Well,” the caller hesitated in his suspenseful reply, “let’s just say I’m someone quite notable and quite well to do,” he answered, bragging.

“Wow! That sounds exciting … even though I’m really not into money and power,” Caroline responded in a cutting tone, yet still attempting to humor him. “Would I know you then … you’re someone famous? Is that it?”

“That depends on what you read and watch on television, sweetie,” he spoke condescendingly.

“I see,” she puzzled. “Then you’re on television … or at least in the papers. What then must I read or watch to know you? Come on … please tell me … how could I ever guess … really?”

He hesitated; there was a very long silence as if he were debating with himself, choosing a suitable and discrete answer. “I assume you’ve heard of Screw Me Now magazine,” he blurted out with pride. “Or … I’ll bet you’re one of those who live buried under a rock! Right, babe?”

Caroline, as most others New Yorkers, had heard of this rag, Screw Me Now—sordid pornography garbage—but knew little about it since it was not her style to even glance at such trash at the newsstand. It was, as far as she knew, a tabloid-type newspaper of about ten pages containing sexually explicit, lewd pictures, stories and articles on sex, violence and disgusting sexual perversions: pure rubbish—at least that was her personal conception. Caroline silently reviewed in her mind the little she knew about the tabloid before answering her caller. She decided it would be best to appear not to wise and not to ignorant of the issue at hand. “Of course I’ve heard of it. Who hasn’t! And … then … do you write for that … magazine … or are you frequently mentioned in it? Oh! Wait! I know! You’re a porn star … male, I hope!” she laughed sarcastically, attempting to even the score.

What came next was strangely overwhelming. “No darling,” came the gruff voice over the phone, “I’m certainly no porn star. I own the magazine,” he proudly announced. “Is that significant enough for you?”

“Yea! Sure! I’ll bet you do,” Caroline retorted, laughing to ease the tension she felt. Obviously, here was some joker having a bit of fun with her. But he immediately sensed her disbelief and seemed eager to convince her that he was who he was.

“I’m very famous you know! Do you have any idea what my name is … or what I’ve done? No. Obviously you don’t have the slightest idea. You’re not into the scene, I suppose.”

“Let’s see,” Caroline teased, for she was beginning to find it all very amusing. “The only name that comes to mind is …uh … Robin Flynn … or … something like that.”

She felt a bit foolish now for real; maybe she should have known the names of the notable pornographers of the day—or should she? Perhaps it was all right not to know; after all, hopefully she was on a higher cultural plane than that. She waited in suspense, and then he picked up the broken conversation and knocked her down again in her flubbed answer.

“You mean Robby Flint, darling … not Flynn. No, I’m not Robby Flint! He owns Hollywood Babes. That’s not me,” he stated emphatically with a note of sarcasm in his voice. He paused. Caroline could hear heavy, labored breathing as if he were approaching an orgasm, and she began to wonder if the conversation were simply a ploy for the gentleman to engage in some camouflaged, outlandish phone sex. Then he resumed. “I can’t believe you don’t my name. You don’t even know the founder of Screw Me Now! Do you watch any local cable TV? I have a weekly show … on Manhattan Channel 134; I’m very well known in the city. Babe … really … you must go around with your head in the ground.”

“Yes … you’re right. I don’t watch much TV,” Caroline admitted. Then another name of someone in the pornography industry suddenly popped into her head. “Wait! I know. Another name just came to mind. Ah … someone … Richy Passiona … maybe?” Caroline knew this name but was not even sure how to pronounce it. He had recently been in the news over some issue or other. Caroline was certainly exposing her ignorance of the current pop culture and sensational news headlines.

“Nope! Still got it wrong! Richy Passiona is Girly Playpen. But … hey … at least you know a few names … almost. But you don’t know mine, huh? You interest me, lady,” he laughed. “You’re so out of it! Completely out of it! I’m probably the most eminent of them all because of what I’ve done in the past … for the industry, that is.”

While he was making fun of her, Caroline toyed with the idea that perhaps she really did have a notable pop culture icon on the other end of the phone. She also recognized her own lack of interest in anything that smacked of pop culture and current fads and trends. Caroline listened only to classical music, read the likes of Henry James, Charles Dickens, D. H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy, went to the Met and MOMA, loved the ballet and opera. Perhaps she was living in a different era when it came to culture and the arts, and, if one wished to view it as such, there might very well be a deficiency in her knowledge of popular current trends and personalities. Yet, Caroline thought it marked her as an elitist and a genuine high-brow. For sure, she was a cultural snob of the highest rank.

“So, you really don’t know my name … never heard of me, eh,” he continued sarcastically.”

“I’m not into pornography,” Caroline answered condescendingly. “I’m a woman. I don’t need that sort of … disgusting trash.”

“Look, babe! Do you know the name Herb Saccard?”

“Yes … it sounds vaguely familiar. Are you Herb Saccard?”

“You got it, sweetheart,” he croaked in his gruff, hoarse voice. “And I’m the owner and founder of that … that pornography rag that you would never condescend to even glance at … you in your isolated hoity-toity world.”

The conversation between them had been growing continually hostile and adversarial. If they kept it up in this manner, they would, no doubt, soon decide to terminate the sour, sharp-tongued conversation and any possibility of a meeting between them. Just to play it safe, Caroline decided to alter her tone and sweet-talk him. After all, if he really were Saccard, she’d certainly enjoy meeting him. “Well, Herb” she now completely dropped her own disrespectful tone and moved the conversation onto a more amicable plane. “I certainly do know your name … I guess I’ve heard it … but … that’s about it. I really don’t know very much about you or your publication. But … I’d like to.”

“Then ask me some questions, sweetheart. Let’s see if we’re a match,” he retorted in a sober tone.

It was true. Caroline had heard his name somewhere, somehow, but had no idea who he really was or what he had done. Actually, for dating purposes, she didn’t care who he was. Power, fame, money—they were not what she sought in a man. Donald Trump, Senator Kennedy, or even the notorious President Clinton could have come to her apartment as blind dates, and they would have gotten nowhere with her. Caroline’s only requirement was that the “chemistry” be right; first and foremost, she needed that attraction. If she couldn’t imagine herself making love to a man, then she had no interest in him. Just as other woman were gold-diggers looking for what a man could do for them economically, Caroline was superficial in another way. For her, it was looks, personality, style, and demeanor. The man for whom she longed could be a lost soul, have no job, no money and no degree, and as long as she was captivated by his appearance and personality and could, of course, converse with him at some minimal level, then he was for her. Nevertheless, despite her inclinations, Caroline decided to pursue this enigmatic character she had hooked on the internet. Perhaps he was gorgeous and would suit her to a tee. “I’m glad that you’re a celebrity,” she humored him, “that is … if you really are who you say you are! I’ll believe you. But … tell me, Herb, what do you look like,” she proceeded.

“Look sweetheart … why don’t you just tune in to my show on cable and see for yourself. My show’s on every Tuesday … like I said, Manhattan public access, channel 134 at nine. Meantime, tell me about you. You know, I can have any woman I want. I get all these beautiful, hot babes ... top shelf … they’re always calling … want to be on the show or in my magazine. They all want me. They all want to be seen with me. I take em out … big time … classy places, in-spots, ya know? You better be really smashing looking! You better give me a really good reason to meet you, baby!”

And Caroline did just that. She gave him the full run-down because it always worked; her description was a male crowd pleaser. Most men, after hearing it, could not resist making a date to meet her, and she had already decided that it might just be fun to meet this singular gentleman who claimed to be the infamous Herb Saccard.

“Body-wise,” she began her provocative description, “I’m five feet eight, one hundred thirteen pounds, forty. I came to New York to dance with a ballet company. I studied ballet for twenty-five years. I never made it and eventually gave it up, but I do look exactly like a ballet dancer, a runway model, a super model. I probably surpass super model quality! I have beautiful long dancer’s legs, a beautiful buttocks, small breasts, thirty-two B. I’m totally sculpted, have no body fat and am described by everyone as awesome—that is, my body. On a scale of one to ten, I’m a twelve!” She was her usual confident self.

“Go on, sweetheart … so far, I like what I hear.”

So, unfortunately Caroline felt compelled to proceed to the “not so good” part—her face, which some men saw as beautiful and others did not like at all. She was always honest, almost to the point of bluntness. “As far as my face, Mr. Saccard, men either love it, think I’m very attractive, or hate it and think I’m an ugly bitch. I’m really not ugly, but I do have exotic looks which are not to every man’s taste. I have eyes like Elizabeth Taylor’s—sexy cat’s eyes, but greenish-yellow. I have a nice nose, a nice mouth, full lips … but I have this very long, thin, sculpted face with very high cheek bones, quite pronounced, and cheeks that almost sink in. It’s that gaunt, starving, ballerina look. ‘Heroin sheik’ as it’s called today.” Caroline halted and considered if she had said enough. Since there were no adverse comments coming from her listener, she proceeded a bit further in her recitation which she knew by-heart. “My skin is perfectly clear and very white; I haven’t been in the sun since high school. My hair is long, dark auburn, parted on the side and hangs over one eye like Veronica Lake, the old movie actress. And, oh yes, I do wear a good bit of makeup—Joan Collins or Pamela Anderson style: heavy, dark eye makeup. I’m described as sexy, sensual, sultry, gothic, sluty-trashy, a vamp, a woman of the night look, and very theatrical.”

“Go on, baby, I’m enjoying this. You’re turning me on already,” he interjected.

“There’s not much more to tell, Mr. Saccard” Caroline obliged him. “I move like a super model. I have a very slick, theatrical, sophisticated façade … a kind of dramatic demeanor. Everyone stares at me on the street. But you either love it or you hate it.”

She had captured his imagination. Caroline knew how to do it well, with her cleverly concocted description. She had worked hard on that scintillating, detailed masterpiece of verbiage, and now it was a polished piece that very rarely failed to intrigue men. Within minutes, Mr. Herb Saccard made a date to meet her. Then, claiming pressing business matters, he rudely rushed her off the phone.

Chapter 17
Johnny, A Real Heart-Breaker

Johnny “the loser,” as he referred to himself, became one of those heartbreaking liaisons, a futile affaire d’amour. When Johnny called and made his debut on the stage of Caroline’s barren life, she felt sure that he was to be her salvation, that he was the one for whom she had been searching these many years.

She and Johnny immediately meshed over the phone. Their first conversation, contrary to form, lasted several hours, and when she hung up, she had the extraordinary feeling that she had been talking to an old friend whom she had known for a lifetime. Johnny certainly had a craving for good conversation and was precisely on Caroline’s philosophical and psychological frequency. However, when their conversation began and Caroline asked her usual questions of Johnny, she got answers which should have caused her to politely disengage and forget him. “What do you do Johnny?” she asked, to begin their conversation.

 Now, this question she asked only as a conversation ice-breaker or lead-in, having discovered that there was hardly any fellow who could not, to some degree, discuss his work. Unlike most New York women however, Caroline cared not a jot how her future blind-date made his money, nor did she look upon his answer as a measure of his earnings potential and his ability to provide for a home and family. Perhaps she thought of it as a way to learn of her date’s interests, a way to direct the conversation in his direction if she possibly could. If her caller were an actor, she could talk about acting; if he were a lawyer, she could discuss some current case in the news. As for money and earnings potential, Caroline didn’t care if the man she wanted made $15,000 a year or two million. And so, when Caroline, after a few introductory words about herself, asked Johnny about his chosen occupation, unfortunately he categorized her instantly as one of the New York’s “gold-digger” women—those whom he had frequently encountered.

“Aw … I’m a loser,” he answered in a slow, heavy, mid-Western drawl. “You don’t really want to know me … a classy, educated chick like you living on Fifth Avenue. What would you want with a guy like me? I hardly have a penny to my name,” he articulated with a droll sense of humor.

“Is this guy kidding … or what …” Caroline considered. “I’ve never heard a man refer to himself as a loser … especially in a blind-dating situation where men usually try to promote themselves.” She felt compelled to explain herself; she didn’t want to be mistaken for the typical woman in search of a free meal ticket. “Look, Johnny,” she replied, attempting to make it all right, “you’re not talking to one of those “gold-digger” women just looking for a man to support and take care of her. I know the type. I just want a guy who turns me on and will love me passionately … as both a woman and as a friend. Believe me, what you do is completely inconsequential except that … well … it might tell me something about your interests … maybe. That’s the only reason I asked … to see if we might share something in common … to see where your head was, so to speak. Believe it … I have enough money. I don’t need yours.”

“Well,” Johnnie replied, “then you won’t like my pocket book and you won’t like where my head is either … that’s for sure. Would you believe, twenty-seven years old, didn’t even finish high school back in Milwaukee … my dad kicked me out of the house, and I’ve been just pushing cars around in parking lots ever since. And when I’m not moving the cars around, I have to pick up the rubbish in the lots, like stray garbage and stuff. I’m just nothing but a parking lot attendant … and it’s not that I have a fancy for cars … it’s just that …”

“So what!” Caroline interrupted nonchalantly. “You sound pretty darn smart to me. I like talking to you, Johnny. I like your sincerity.”

“Ya know,” he continued, “most women in New York … in these Manhattan single’s bars … they avoid me like I’m contaminated or something. As soon as they find out what I do, they’re gone! They all want professional men, big bread winners, guy with lots of degrees and education. They see me as a damn loser … which I am … I know it. I’m just a loser.” He paused, and Caroline sensed that he was feeling sorry for himself. Then he continued, for he was communicative and just seemed to enjoy talking. “Yea, I am that. I’m a damn loser! I came here to play with a group of fellows in a rock band. For a while, it went pretty good. Oh, by the way … I play guitar and sing a bit. Yeh! It went well for a year, and then the group started fighting … and the whole thing just fell apart. Since then, nothing. Just the parking attendant jobs!”

“I know that kind of failure, Johnny,” Caroline chimed in. “I came to New York to be a ballet dancer and never made it. Lots of us who come to New York to pursue the arts or … whatever … a lot of us just stumble and fall by the wayside.”

“So you know all about it,” he responded. “But at least you have your education. I have nothing. Anyway, getting back to the topic of women … ya know, since I got to New York five years ago, I haven’t had more than two or three dates with any woman before she dumped me … just walked away from me like I was a piece of garbage. I’m a real lonely guy, ya know, Caroline. I’m honest … I can tell you that … it’s true … I’m lonely for the touch and care of a good woman. I need a woman to love me, Caroline. God how good that would be … how great it’d feel. And I’m just full of love to give … if I could only find the woman who wanted me. But … who wants a complete loser like me?”

Caroline’s heart bled for Johnny; there was an immediate empathy, something in his voice and his complete ingenuousness that melted her cynical veneer like boiling water on sheets of ice. What man would call himself a loser, clearly see the paucity of his accomplishments and admit it to a total stranger? And how many adult men will ever concede to being so very lonely? Even though this fellow labeled himself as an utter failure, Caroline already admired and respected him for his truthfulness. Here was a man living by the maxim: to thine own self be true. And it seemed as if he could face the failure of his life straight on. It was a subject in which Caroline had an immense interest and in which she herself had first-hand experience.

And as she listened carefully with undivided attention to what Johnny had to say, she could vividly imagine what this native mid-westerner was confronting as he attempted to build new personal relationships in a city like New York, always on the move, where so many, like himself … and like Caroline, came from their native homelands with the clearly defined purpose of seeking success and basking in the cool, anonymity the city offered. Indeed, it could be a dog-eat-dog city, and if you could not serve someone’s purpose, you were a nothing and a nobody.

In the relationship quest as it was encountered in the city’s pubs, bars, restaurants and other popular gathering spots, the typical mentality of the women who frequented these places was well know by almost every fellow actively engaged in the scene. Even Caroline had a few female acquaintances who were representative of the prevalent female “gold digger” mentality. The central concern of these women was always: What does this gentleman do for a living and how much does he earn? Of secondary importance was the amount of power he wielded. Because Caroline did not evaluate men by these criteria, she was often condemned by other women for dating men regardless of what they did to earn a living. But for Caroline, it was a simple case of extreme physical attraction: that her man worship and need her desperately, be physically and emotionally effusive. And of course, she needed to adore them in a like manner.

Although Caroline had no idea what Johnny looked like, she already felt the desire to take him in her arms and comfort him, tell him that he was a fine, decent person, that she would love him always. She conjured up a fanciful, romantic vision of being his salvation—the only true love in his solitary, depressing existence. Being so touched by his pitiful history, she disregarded the important fact of his physical appearance and whether the chemistry would be right between them, and longed to meet him simply because of the fairy-tale, passionate possibilities he presented. She imagined herself becoming his goddess and the woman whom he couldn’t live without; she alone would accept him, this lonely, uneducated parking lot attendant, and make him whole and happy, like no other woman would or could. Her vivid, artistic imagination conjured up the beauty of such a dramatic scenario!

After several hours of conversation in which Johnny and Caroline eventually drifted off the topic of themselves and onto other far more absorbing and enthralling subjects, Caroline perceived that Johnny was actually well read and knew a lot about the world despite his lack of formal education. Besides, he was completely logical in his thinking and had a wonderfully droll sense of humor. He loved to tell short anecdotes about himself, all of which were philosophical, amusing, had moral value and made some significant, psychological point. Rarely did he speak of frivolous or trifling things, but those that were worldly and meaningful. For the first time in a long while, Caroline really enjoyed a conversation. “Johnny … I really want to meet you … and … believe me, I don’t care what you do. You could be a bag-man on the street, and I’d still want to meet you. I like your honesty, your clear perception of yourself … not afraid to admit your faults. And I really enjoy talking to you. You’re such a good conversationalist and so funny … you do make me laugh. I’m having such a good time just talking to you, Johnny. Please come and meet me.”

 Johnny and Caroline understood one another well and wanted to meet as soon as possible. They made the usual “look-see” date, and once again, Caroline felt sure that she was on the verge of a relationship that would be significant. She wanted it to be right as much as Johnny did. At the time, they were both hurting—he from having no steady woman in five years, and she, from having had so many miserable experiences and still an empty plate.

From the very instant that Caroline opened her apartment door, she was completely consumed with a physical passion for Johnny. He was a tall, six foot three, average-built fellow with chestnut brown, short hair, puppy dog eyes—those that slope downward—clear skin and lush, full pouting lips. He was unassuming, dressed very simply in a pair of old tattered blue jeans, an open white shirt and white, well-worn sneakers. It was not that he was exceedingly gorgeous or a pretty boy type, yet there was that undefinable something about him which Caroline found physically appealing. Perhaps it was the kindly, compassionate expression that graced his face and made him seem vulnerable, as if he might shed a tear or empathize with a woman in all her complex emotions.

As Caroline went through her usual nightly date maneuvers, she immediately felt comfortable with Johnny. He, like all the other men she had met, took his Coke, relaxed in her green chair and indulged her in scintillating conversation. As they spoke, she confirmed a refreshing sincerity and straightforwardness about him, qualities rare in New York men. He had a good grasp of who he was and what he was, not that he approved, yet he accepted that he was what he was. He told her more about himself and listened patiently and with eagerness as Caroline did likewise. The conversation was never dominated by either of them, but flowed back and forth, each of them equally interested in learning about the other. After an hour, Caroline knew that Johnny was exactly her heart’s desire. She wanted him in every way possible, as soon as possible. Maybe, just maybe, it would work, and she was elated!

That first meeting between them lasted over four hours, the longest that Caroline could ever recall. Even though they were only sitting side by side, sipping coffee and talking together, Caroline was intoxicated, was tingling all over with feelings of exuberance and passion. Meanwhile, Johnny, who loved to converse, unashamedly spoke in great detail of his past: again, he explained to Caroline how he had always been estranged from his family, had quit high school and then left home at the instigation of his home-town buddies to join them as their lead guitar player in a band they were getting together in New York City, how the group had done a year of gigs, and then how it had suddenly fallen apart. At that point, Johnny was left with no means of subsistence. He elaborated on his struggle to find any kind of job, ending up working for a parking lot company as a car jockey-maintenance man. It was only then, he went on with tears glistening in his eyes, that the loneliness set in: all the band members having walked away from each other in anger and hatred, long-standing friendships completely unsalvageable. Coming to the present, Johnny was now all alone in the city without a single friend or acquaintance, engaged in a futile search for friendship and love.

Caroline empathized and told him of her struggles with the ballet and her overpowering desire to do something of significance. As the hours of their meeting rushed by, she felt as if she had known Johnny a very long time; they were so very comfortable together—a warm, gratifying feeling in which both indulged with relish after so many heartaches, failed relationship, nights of loneliness and numerous rejections.

Not until well after midnight did Johnny take his leave. It was clear to both that they would be seeing one another again—very soon. Johnny knew that he could have taken Caroline that evening, so attracted was she to him, but he was a gentleman and feared spoiling everything by pushing himself on her at the last minute and making a mess of it all. So, to Caroline’s dismay, he didn’t even give her a single kiss but left her at the door with a warning that he would most definitely be calling very soon. The “very soon,” in fact, was the next day, and he and Caroline made their plans to meet again. There was no game playing; they wanted to be together, and they would.


For BIOGRAPHIES of the ARTISTS, click the names:     LINDA LEVEN         LANCE LEE