I let our love guide my thoughts and ignored the questions burning in my mind. The less I knew the better. I loved Toby, this much I knew and I also knew he was falling for me too. Warm nights spent frolicking on the beach, another visit to the park for movie night, candlelight dinners and movies filled our summer together. Days and nights rolled into each other and after several more weeks went by the sting of jealous began to lessen. Our passion filled nights, and his consideration and attentiveness, saw to this.
It was still all like a dream, my fairytale with whispers of love in the darkness. Still that dark cloud of envy hovered over us. I remained quiet, the questions left unanswered. Always in the back of my mind is whether he romances them the same way. He said he doesn’t sleep with them, simply escorts them, and woos them a little. But he told me what others do for the extra money...is he the same. The thought of him with other women drove me crazy. A thousand times I thought about asking him to quit. The jealousy consumed me while it played like a broken record in my mind. I said nothing until it all got too much one night. The memory of our words hung heavy on my soul as I tried to concentrate on stock-take, my thoughts wandering to the previous evening.
We’d just arrived home from a movie and I was feeling the effects of the romantic comedy we’d just watched. My head full of whimsy.
“I have to work tomorrow night,” he’d said to me.
“I wish you didn’t have to.”
“I thought we talked about this.”
“Yes, but I don’t like it. You date these women, Toby. I want you to quit.”
“You can’t ask me to do that.” His face gave no indication of his thoughts except the slight clenching of his jaw. I knew he wasn’t impressed.
“Then I’m telling you.”
“You can’t tell me how to live my life, Maddie.”
“Why not? I thought you loved me.”
Remembering how petulant, demanding I’d said the words made me flinch as I lost track of my counting. My mind wandered back as I tried to count again.
A low growl erupted in his throat and he paced for several minutes before he stopped and stood close to me, his face filled with confusion.
“You can’t shape me into some fantasy man you have in your mind. I can’t be tamed. This is what I do and I’m good at it. At first I did it for the money, but as time has gone on I found I liked making these ladies happy. They like the attention, and they tip well. I’m not going to apologise for being charming, Maddie, but I’m not Prince Charming either! You need to live in the real world where there are real problems. Life’s not a fairy story.”
His outburst surprised me. This was a side I hadn’t seen before. During our falling in love bliss we’d never exchanged harsh words, and for a moment my world seemed to shatter. Then reality hit, and I knew he was right, but I couldn’t ignore the jealousy or the images in my mind.
“You’re prince charming to me.” His incredulous look usually would have deterred me from continuing but I forged on regardless. “It’s just so difficult to know you’re out with these women, Toby, doing I don’t know what.”
“I told you it doesn’t mean anything.” He said with a groan, and I knew then I was frustrating him.
Then the one crucial fact became the only clear thought. He does it for his mother. The end justifies the means. He's still the charming saviour, simply in a different guise.
Something in my expression must have eased his irritation. Taking my hand he towed me with him to the couch, and sat me down.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“Me too. I know you’re right.”
“About what?” His tone and expression had soften and his face again full of the sweetness I’d come to love.
“Sorry, I was being defensive. The whole happily ever after thing you have going on is kind of cute.”
At that moment I forgot about everything and just saw him. Our hands became urgent together and tore at the hindrance of our clothes. I smiled as I recalled our half dressed state, making love on the carpet. Later, in bed, I told him I understood why he does it, and if there is no sex involved I could live with it.
“Maddie!” I turned to see Suzy, one of the sales assistants, standing in the doorway.
“Sorry, I was miles away.”
“I noticed.” She smiled. “He must be something else. You just had the most wicked smile on your face.”
“He is.” I smiled. “What’s up?”
“I need you out front.”
At lunch, as though sensing all wasn’t right, as they always had, Julia and Sam asked me about it, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell them about Toby’s occupation or about our fight. I didn’t want to see Sam’s scornful frown and Julia’s sympathetic gaze. I’d already decided, if he wasn’t sleeping with them, it wasn’t a big deal. If being the big word in that equation.
Instead, I told them of all the wonderful romantic things my prince does, and watched the envy transfer from me to them. It didn’t appease the green eyed beast growing inside me, but it helped to transfer a little of it. I knew it was wrong but I couldn’t bring myself to say the words out loud. Sam would say I told you so, and the shine would be taken off for Julia. I didn’t think this would be fair to the noble man that I loved so my lips remained sealed.
My prince waited for me outside of work with a bunch of all my favourite flowers. The mix of bright colours and his sexy smile alleviated my concerns. After dropping off my flowers and a quick change of clothes, we drove to what had become our favourite spot at the beach. We built a sandcastle with a deep moat and filled it with water. In his teasing tone he improvised a story of the prince on his white steed saving the fair maiden from the tallest tower. As the sun set over the horizon in a blaze of orange and gold I sighed with contentment, and decided things couldn’t be better until reality hit me in the face again.
“We have to go, Maddie. I have to work.”
“I was surprised when you turned up at work today because you told me last night you were working. I assumed it had been cancelled or something.”
“No, unfortunately, it’s a cocktail party for charity and it doesn’t start until 9.”
“Oh, that's late.”
“Yeah, the lifestyle of the rich and famous, eh?”
“Well, not famous, but rich anyway.”
His laugh, although in his usual deep tone, sounded stilted. The awkwardness of his occupation hung heavy between us.
“I promise to keep the weekend free starting tomorrow night.”
A Friday and Saturday night with Toby, a first since we’d met. My contentment returned.
“Sounds good to me.” I grinned.