The piece below is a coda to "Awakening - Isobel's Story". A different version of this song was referred to in part 10. The main protagonists of the story are sex workers and while that made it easier to weave sex into the story I particularly wanted to create characters who reflected the wonderful sex workers I have met down the years. Strong, brave, kind women who have made a choice despite conventional society looking down on them. They are professional and unapologetic - and in an age when we strive to create places where everyone is accepted on their own terms it seems that only sex workers can still to be discriminated against. I hope my story in a small way celebrated rather than maligned sex workers.
This version of Love for Sale is sung by Billie Holiday, who changed the way women vocalists were perceived and whose own life gives her songs a depth most interpreters can only imitate. She worked for a while as prostitute and despite enjoying some success as a singer she died at just 44 as a result of drug and alcohol abuse.
The song was written in 1930 by Cole Porter for a relatively unsuccessful musical and was rarely recorded. Holiday's take on it demonstrates her strength of character but like so much of her work the pain she had known can be clearly heard in her singing.
Isobel loves jazz and it seems right to bring things to a close with a Jazz reference. Thanks to everyone who has read this first attempt at fiction especially to those who commented and very special thanks to the amazing Marie Rebelle as well as May More and E L Bryne for their support. It's been a great learning experience but I should perhaps focus on my professional web pages for a while though it won't be half as much fun.
Let the poets pipe of love
In their childish way
I know every type of love
Better far than they
If you want the thrill of love
I've been through the mill of love
Old love, new love
Every love but true love, love for sale
Written by Cole Porter sung by Billie Holiday
Photo by Ethan Hoover at Unsplash
The chimes of her doorbell eventually roused her and she headed downstairs feeling a little the worse for the previous day and night's drinking. She knew that what she need was a run a to reinvigorate her system. She opened the door and her stomach lurched as saw the Hiker. Her body instantly confirmed that this man was important to her and her mind was clear that this could be her last chance to find out who he was. "Come in" she said opening the door wider only to be almost felled by Henry who seemed desperate to renew an old acquaintance.
Once they had all calmed down and brewed some strong coffee that both Isobel and Luna needed they sat down at the kitchen table. Eric began once more to explain who he was and what he did and he also admitted to knowing a great deal about Isobel's previous life. He explained that Luna's call to Monica had been traced to the village and he had been alerted and then driven through the night to the village and walked through the wood to the cottage.
He asked her how much she had now remembered and she explained that it was still very little but she had a very strong sense that he was someone she had known and who was important to her. She paused and then went on "And I seem to be a very sexual person - I am relaxed about what I do and who I do it with and I seem to be remarkably good at it too"
Try as he might Eric couldn't stop himself laughing "I can confirm that" he said. But the levity passed quickly and he finally asked her the question she had both longed for and dreaded "I can tell you as much or as little about your past as you wish. This life you now have cannot be taken away from you and you are free to go on living as choose but only you can decide if you want to know what led you here."
Isobel thought for a moment and then said "What I really need to do is take run so I can think more clearly". Eric replied saying that seemed a very wise course of action but he went on "I know you trust Luna - are you happy that I give her at least some of the information I have so she can help you make your decision?" She looked at Luna who said "Only if you want me to" and Isobel nodded her assent.
As she ran her body and mind began to work in harmony. This was going to be the day her life began again if she cleared away all the doubts and suspicions. But it could be that she had done things so terrible that the knowledge would make it impossible to be happy again. The longer she ran the clearer it became. She wanted Eric in her life and that could only happen if there were no secrets. She turned for home and increased her pace arriving back breathing hard and sweating profusely.
She looked at the two of them and then said to Luna "You are my dearest friend - I want to know what happened to me but should I?" Luna stood up and took Isobel in her arms. "You should and you must - we both know you will find no peace unless you do."
Isobel quickly showered and when she came back down stairs found that a bottle of Chablis had been opened and a glass poured for her "We thought you might need it" said Luna while Eric nodded assent.
She was not in the least surprised and not a little pleased to learn what her former profession had been but wondered why she had decided to move on. Eric explained that what she had told him was that it was not about giving up her profession but merely a desire to slow down by moving to the countryside where she would have more time to spend with Henry, her books, her jazz and the occasional man or woman who met her exacting standards. It seemed that her commitment to sexual freedom was deeply rooted and she was perfectly happy about that.
Once he began to explain about the incident with Ethan and Cassiopeia she was much less happy. As he took her through the decision she made and what then happened she began to shake and Luna took her hand. Once he described Agnetha her memory began to run ahead of him - her friend had saved her. She demanded to know about Agnetha's well being but was reassured that she was back in New York and still scaring men shitless.
Eric told her that he understood how much of a shock some of this must have been and began to take his leave but Isobel wasn't going to risk losing him once more and suggested that he take Henry for a walk while she prepared some lunch and spoke to Luna too of course.
"You have strong feelings for him" she said and Isobel began to feel that she might be betraying her friend if she admitted just how strong but she underestimated Luna. "We've become close these last few months - and had a lot of fun too. I want us to go on being friends but we aren't about to fall in love though I think you and Eric might just have be doing exactly that." Isobel was about to protest but stopped herself as she realised that she wanted Eric in her life not just to fuck but because he made her feel good and safe.
Once lunch was over there was a silence which was broken by Luna. She said she was going to walk to the village and head for home but when Eric offered to go with her and drive her to the station she rather too quickly changed her story. "I was also thinking of dropping in on Mostyn just say thank you for a lovely time yesterday". Eric was about to ask who Mostyn was but before he could they both began to laugh. Finally Isobel said "Give him my love and don't do anything to him I wouldn't do" at which point they erupted into laughter again.
Once she had left Isobel moved and sat beside Eric "This is perhaps the strangest question I have ever asked a man" she said. "My body tells me that it had sex with you and enjoyed it but my mind cannot recall when or where. Did we fuck?"
"No, we didn't" he said and Isobel began to feel a strong sense of disappointment well up within her but his next words would change her life for ever "We made love all night before you went to Ethan's place. It was thoroughly unprofessional of me but I have thought about that night every day since and hoped that it could happen again."
Isobel kissed him on the lips for a long time and then took his hand and led him to the stairs pausing only to distract Henry with a bowl of food. Once they were in the bedroom he told her about the conversation that preceded their first time together. Her confession to him about the sort of sex she usually enjoyed and his desire to simply make slow and gentle love with a beautiful woman. Unprompted she once more whispered "I can do that too".