This is a sample from ‘Mistress: A Novella’.
Keisha Crawford was worried. Sitting cross-legged on her bed, she spread out in front of her, all of value that she owned in the world. The jewelry probably totaled somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred thousand, but that only mattered if she was willing to part with any of it. Like most men, Charlie had been very generous when it came to “things.” Actual cash he’d been a little more squirrelly about. Now that she thought about it, he’d probably only ever given her about five thousand dollars in cash. Sure, he would take her shopping, let her spend whatever she wanted, which he charged on his black card; he would pay for vacations for her and her friends, he paid her mortgage, and bought her gifts but rarely if ever did he give her cash.
Getting cash hadn’t been that important, and to be honest, Keisha preferred that there not be an exchange of money. It would have made her feel like a whore, and she was not a whore. Charlie, like the boyfriends who had gone before him, simply wanted to take care of her, and she was willing to let him do it. The age difference hadn’t mattered at all, even though they raised a couple of eyebrows when they were out together. Once a waiter had asked Charlie whether he and his granddaughter wanted another bottle of wine with their dinner. Keisha could have sworn he’d smirked when he said it, the bastard. Anyone who’d been paying a moment’s attention would have known that she wouldn’t be hanging onto her grandfather the way she’d been hanging onto Charlie.
But all that was over now. Charlie was dead, and Keisha would have to fend for herself. She guessed that she had about three weeks maximum and it would be goodbye penthouse apartment, goodbye 24-hour concierge, and goodbye weekly mani-pedis, exclusive gym membership . . .
She couldn’t think about it all now, it was too depressing.
One week after his death Charlie’s family already had begun sorting out his affairs. This morning she’d gotten a very disturbing phone call. It was his daughter, Beth. Charlie had spoken of her often and with pride. She was one year older than Keisha and an attorney at a very prestigious law firm in the city. She had sounded on the phone just as Keisha would have expected: cool and haughty.
“Might I ask to whom I’m speaking?” she said when Keisha answered the phone.
“You called me,” Keisha said. “Who are you?”
“I’m Elizabeth Staynor,” she said. “I’m calling because, as I’m sure you know, my father has died. And in looking through his papers I came across information about this apartment which he purchased in my name. I called the building and was told that it is occupied. They transferred me up to you.”
Keisha had been struck dumb. She remembered clearly the day Charlie had brought her here for the first time.
Look what I got you, Bunny, he’d said. A place of your own.
She’d never examined or asked what that meant, “a place of your own.” She honestly hadn’t believed he bought it in her name—it was a million-dollar piece of real estate after all—but she couldn’t have imagined he’d put it in Beth’s name either. Especially since he wouldn’t have wanted anyone in his family to know about her.
“Are you there?” Beth Staynor asked.
“Yes, I’m here.”
“I’m not going to inquire into the nature of your relationship with my father. I can imagine, though that it was something my mother need not know about. My strong suggestion is that you take the next two days to empty the space of your belongings—and I do mean empty—and find another place to live.”
Keisha cleared her throat. “You really think that’s what Charlie would have wanted?”
“Don’t you dare . . .” Beth Staynor raised her voice for a moment then seemed to think better of it. “Don’t you dare imply that you know what my father would have wanted. His putting the apartment in my name is ample evidence of what he wanted. Whatever services you performed for him will no longer be needed. You have two days.”
And then the line went dead.
Keisha had no intention of leaving in two days. She would stay until she was forced to leave, and as far as she could guess, it would be a few weeks before that happened. Charlie’s funeral was on Saturday according to the obituary in the paper. Lots of powerful people from around the country would be flying in for what was sure to be a huge event. Then the family would have to have a reception or a dinner to host some of the more important guests. Then there would be meetings with lawyers and boards of directors and the staff of his many companies. Keisha’s guess was that Beth Staynor would be way too occupied to worry about her anytime soon.
But that didn’t solve the problem at hand, which was that she very little money, and no job. In her checking account, she had about seven hundred dollars. In her purse, maybe another five hundred, and that was it. Not even enough to make a deposit on a decent place to live if she needed to. Keisha wondered whether Beth had gotten around to closing out Charlie’s accounts at all the restaurants around town. She could probably eat out a few times at places where they knew her as Charlie’s girl but how long would that last? Less than a week, certainly. Charlie was not exactly low-profile; everyone in the business world and high society were talking about his death. He had fallen over at the eleventh hole on Shinnecock Hills on Southampton and been declared dead before the ambulance even arrived.
At sixty-three, he’d been relatively young, and by far the youngest of all Keisha’s recent boyfriends. Ironic that he would have been the one to die on her. And she’d really been starting to like him, too. She met him at the Met Costume Institute Gala which she was attending with Stewart Lawson. Stewart was a venture capitalist and her friend Avery’s boyfriend. But Avery had the flu and had been happy to let Keisha take her place for one night. Stewart was seventy-three and looked like that old-time movie actor, David Niven. Keisha suspected he was gay and only wanted Avery around as a beard, but she didn’t mind filling that role for an evening, especially since it meant going to so exclusive an event.
Keisha’s own boyfriend had begun to tire of her. She knew it because he was calling less, and had forgotten on two occasions to pay her rent. When she’d called to remind him, he had been short with her. The last time he came to visit, he hadn’t even been interested in sex, so Keisha knew her days were numbered. He had found someone else, it was clear, but perhaps had not yet made his move. His drawing away meant that Keisha needed to find a new benefactor.
At the ball, Avery’s boyfriend had practically ignored her. As wealthy as he was, he was still starstruck and wandered off every few minutes to meet some actress of actor who caught his eye, leaving Keisha standing alone and feeling foolish. Charlie had been standing alone as well and when their eyes met at one point, he raised his champagne glass to her. Keisha returned the gesture and smiled her most winning smile. Charlie approached and she straightened her back, presenting her chest in its best light.
“These things are a crashing bore, aren’t they?” he said.
“Depends on who you’re with, I suppose,” Keisha said.
“Well, who are you with?” Charlie asked leaning in closer.
Keisha indicated where Stewart, a few feet away, was having his photo taken with Anna Wintour.
“Stewart Lawson,” he laughed. “You can do a lot better than that.”
“Oh can I?”
“Yes,” Charlie said. “You can.”
That very night, Keisha had blown him in the back of his Bentley. Then she’d reapplied her lipstick and gone back to the party. She expected that he would want to screw her but not much more than that. But he called her and took her to dinner the next evening and within a week he had moved her out of her apartment and to the penthouse. In the first three months, it was clear that she was not his only mistress— he seemed to be dividing his time between her and at least one other woman, but she didn’t care, just so long as she was being taken care of. Once Keisha Googled him however, she realized she would be foolish not to try to get him for herself so she upped the ante, exerting a little more effort to be sexually creative, surprising him with role plays and greeting him at the door stark naked, silly little tricks like that.
But it worked.
Soon, Charlie was spending every free moment with her and showering her with so many gifts, it became unusual for him to show up empty-handed. He had begun modestly enough, with a five thousand dollar Tiffany Grace drop pendant, but by the time he died, the last gift he had given her was a twenty-five thousand dollar necklace. He always got the jewelry from Tiffany, though Keisha always secretly hoped he would move to something even higher end.
Now, Keisha scooped up her jewelry and put it all back into the cases in her walk-in closet. Spinning around, she realized something else she’d overlooked. She had to have tens of thousands of dollars in designer clothes. There were lots of consignment shops around the city that would pay her well for some of this stuff, much of it not yet worn. And the furniture in the apartment could also command a good price – Charlie had gone all out with the decorating, giving her a budget that was known only to him and the designer. But Keisha could not recall being told that anything she liked was too expensive. So ultimately, she was fairly well-off. She just needed a place to live. There was one place that was a sure bet. It was her last resort, and she need not consider it right now so she wouldn’t.
Instead, she got showered and dressed and headed over to Avery’s. Avery had had a boyfriend die on her once before. She would know what to do.