By Ele Pawelski
Every part of my body is sweating—my forehead, my armpits, even my delicates. The guy had professed a love of surprises and old movies, so I roll myself in a carpet for our first date. What the hell, I’m always up for a little drama, and my genuine Afghan rug hadn’t seen much action since I became single.
I hear the Purolator delivery boys up front making jokes and innuendos.
“Rolled up like a piggy in a blanket.”
“You know what happens to little piggies? They get eaten by wolves.”
Bloody Purolator. I blink my fake eyelashes and swap this train of thought with another: I am beautiful and ready to seduce.
The local Italian restaurant is my destination. The Purolator guys unroll me at table nine. I sweep to my feet grabbing a glass of ice water on the way up. Jules eyes my thigh-high black boots. Even for me, this entrance is arousing.
“Charmed to see you again,” he says. In that single phrase, Jules exudes charisma and flair while his dark eyes and shaved head signal confidence. This is going to be good.
The son of my parents’ friends, Jules and I had been briefly introduced a few weeks back following his move into the city. I know he plays soccer, is studying fencing and owns a carpet wholesale company. Carpets are one thing we have common.
My parents’ carpet shop became mine when they retired. Before stepping into their shoes, I took a course on business management. My transformation into the Queen of Alexandria’s Carpets was swift; restoring its dwindling sales to a period of former glory, less so. I’m intrigued by the new prospects Jules’ wholesale business can bring. Plus, he’s gorgeous.
We go on date after glorious date. Kisses are exchanged, confidences divulged, carpets procured. With Jules’ supplies and support, Alexandria’s Carpets flourishes.
On March 15, our liaison abruptly ends.
Jules died from a knife wound that police say involved his employees, but no one has been charged. I’m heartbroken. I’d really fallen for him. Distressingly, his carpet deliveries stop soon after.
Marco, one of his business partners, calls me the following month. We meet uptown. His story is simple: a tug of war to take over Jules’ company has arisen and Marco wants my help. The competition is Gus, Jules’ other business partner, who plans to dissolve the company and pocket the profits. Marco insists that keeping the enterprise afloat is the better course of action. But he doesn’t have to persuade me; my trade depends on those carpets.
Heady with Marco’s smell, I nod. He leans in and brushes my knee. We retire to a nearby hotel. My gold necklace and earrings hit the nightstand with an electric ping as I glide into bed beside him.
My passion for Marco catches me off guard. I want to spend every minute with him. I also need to keep my biggest supplier operational. His prices for carpets are even better than Jules’ had been.
Two weeks after we’d met, I invite Marco to move in. He enthusiastically agrees. I make space in the chest of drawers and closet. He brings over two suitcases and a box of books but says he needs to take an unexpected trip overseas the next morning.
I miss Marco terribly, but focus on a new marketing strategy and play with numbers to see if I can open a second store in the suburbs. I also decide to keep tabs on my main supply line, so meet Gus, Marco’s rival. He’s young with a determined look in his eyes. Gus doesn’t know who I am or my interest in his carpets. I pretend to represent a west coast retail chain.
Marco returns earlier than planned and he’s furious. Gus launched an action to oust him from the business, accusing Marco of fraud and corruption. I’m stunned. Is it possible Marco is a cheat?
That night, I sneak a look at the statement of claim, which Marco has refused to show me. I’m shocked to see my name in the pleadings. The allegations are preposterous. Marco and I aren’t commercial partners, we’re lovers. Then it hits me: Marco deliberately undercut his own carpet prices when selling to me.
Back in the bedroom, I watch him sleep. His mouth is a straight line, his eyebrows slightly pulled together. Tomorrow, things will become ugly; tonight, I treasure him.
In the morning, we argue. Marco is belligerent when I suggest winding up the venture may be the best course of action. He says his reputation is at stake and he’ll fight the lawsuit.
At the courthouse, Gus sits at a table across the room. I hide behind a large hat. A clerk silently flips through the file. Gus looks over. I think he recognizes me and my heart begins to race. I slink down into my seat.
The judge enters and reads the charges aloud. As the words hang in the air, I hear Marco breathing heavily. When I glance over, he’s tugging at the lashes of his left eye. I gently pull his hand down.
At the break, I leave, wiping away a tear.
Later, Marco calls to say he agreed to liquidate the company in exchange for Gus withdrawing the case. He doesn’t ask where I am and I don’t tell him. Both our businesses collapse in one day.
That night, Marco takes his life.
Overcome with guilt, I too, decide I’m at the end. I write a note asking that we be buried together and put on my gold lamé dress. My exit will be as regal as that of a Queen.