The Quest (Chapter 1)
"But I will not take your collar this time."
The Man - The envelop is burning in your hands. Your eyes are fixated on the address. No not the address ... just the first line ... the only letter ..... A. Your heart is beating fast and your fingers tremble as you open it carefully, afraid to damage it. You have to sit down. Your head is spinning. Without reading the words the handwriting - even though you have never seen it before - confirms your thoughts. This is him. "A - You are invited to join me in a project and that would benefit greatly form your input. You will work side by side with me." No name, no signature, no date, nothing more. And of course an airplane ticket. You sit, stare at the piece of paper with the watermark that you know so well, albeit not as a watermark. Suddenly the room is very hot. You look at the date - you didn't have to. Of course it is today's date. You call David. He confirms. Of course he does. You should have known. Your hand goes to the lock. Hold it. You wish you could press it against your heart now.
The doorbell rings. A uniformed chauffeur lifts his cap. "I have instructions to bring you to the airport, ma'am. And I have been told you will not bring any luggage."
You blush, you feel like an idiot. I need to think, you tell yourself. Concentrate. Passport. Money. Ticket. Why don't I get to say goodbye to David? Of course I don't. If your previous trip confused you, this is worse. "Work side by side". It seems as if this sentence is in huge neon letters on every wall, around every corner. Everywhere. You desperately try to act "normal". What is normal again. Your heart keeps pounding. Everybody must notice your confusion. Why don't they react to it. Many hours later, on the little airstrip in France, you start to relax as the face of the chauffeur smiles at you.
"Welcome Madame. It is a pleasure to see you again." This time he opens the front door of the car. You get to see where you are now. The driver sits next to you and offers you a glass of champagne. "Madame can certainly do with a refreshment after such a long journey. We will not go to The Mansion directly. I have instructions to drop you of at a restaurant, where you will meet Monsieur."
You tug yourself away in luxurious velvet upholstery of the car, sip the champagne and look out the window. The landscape is spectacular. Hills, huge woods. For the first time you get an idea how large this area is. And how deserted. There are hardly any houses, just endless areas of woods.
Suddenly the car slows down and pulls over to a small wooden cabin next to the road.
"Please follow me, Madame," the driver says. He gets out, opens your door. You notice the box he is carrying. He unlocks the door of the little cabin, you step into the half-dark room. There is just one room, nothing fancy, but with a bath in one corner. It is filled, nicely hot and somehow you do not feel at all surprised to find all your won favorites next to it. "Please refresh yourself, Madam. And after that you are requested to put this on." He puts the bow on the table. "You can leave everything else behind. I will take of that." He smiles: "But I will not take your collar this time."
The bath is comfortable. The small bottle of chilled white one and the light refreshments taste wonderful. The driver leaves the cabin. You notice he does not lock the door. You know there is no need now. In the warm tub you finally start to regain yourself a little bit, knowing that there is no need to try and work out what is to come. It will be different anyway.
When you are done you open the box. A beautiful long black, silk evening dress comes out. As you put it on you notice the very special design. It leaves your shoulders bare and fits tightly around your breasts. If you stand up it reaches down to your feet and cling around your body. As soon as you try to sit however it will fall open automatically from under your breasts downward, exposing everything.
You are a bit embarrassed as you get back into the car and try to cover your body as you sit. You remember the chauffeur must be one of the people that must have seen you in some of your most difficult moments. Thank god the rest of the ride is a short one, basically a ride downhill to the bank of the river where there is a little restaurant in a former water mill.
As the car enters into the car park you look at the driver for further instructions, but there are none. Instead, he stops the car and opens the door on your side. As you get out, you see why there are no further instructions needed. Standing at the river bank, my back turned towards the car park and looking out over the water, you see an all too familiar silhouette.
The car drives off almost instantly. There is no way back now. For a moment you are uncertain, then you see me turning. Instantly you lower your head, lay your hands on your back and walk towards me. Who cares whomever is looking at you now.
I fold my arms around you and hold you for a long time. Not a word is spoken. I feel your trembling body against me, smelling you, feeling you, sucking in every bit of you. "Welcome A," I finally say. "Welcome back. You have grown ... developed. You look beautiful."
I lead you into the restaurant. It is cozy, very authentic and has all sorts of hidden, private corners. A table right behind the huge water wheel has been reserved. You can not see the rest of the restaurant from here and nobody else can see us either. No menu, no ordering, the chef just brings food and drinks and leaves before you have noticed him bringing it.
I look at you, look at what has become of the woman that came to me and left again and that left a very permanent memory that will never go away again. "I have to make a confession," I say. "I can not do it anymore. Not after what we have been through. Which is why I want you here. What is about to start will be the end of The Mansion as it was. Oh yes, it will still be there and I will still come here and live here whenever I feel like it. But after this adventure it will no longer be used as a training facility. It will be a place where a few - very selected - people, will have left many memories and where they can come back if and when they want to. To feel, to share, to remember. But nothing else. No new ones anymore. Except for this one."
Looking into your eyes I spot the unspoken question. "I want to see if you and I can operate as a team. And the woman that is coming is special. Special in a different way. To her everything is new. Well, almost everything. She has very limited experience with her own feelings and emotions and she is willing to explore herself. That is something that is new. To me, to The Mansion, to everything. I want to give her that chance. Together with you."
To be continued…..