INTERVIEW IN THE LIBRARY
"Everything is prepared, Ella. Shall I fetch the young gentleman for the interview?" George asks, filling my coffee while waiting for me to answer.
I nod and take the cup in my hands, crossing my legs to keep my restless foot from tapping against the cherry wood floor. Within moments the double doors swing wide and George usher a young man into the room. He wears a black suit with pink bow tie and I smile. I do enjoy a man that can follow instructions.
"You may leave us, George," I say. Taking a sip from my coffee, I study the young man. Brown short hair and pale gray eyes combine with a thin, almost gaunt face to give an impression of being unwell. Does this boy sleep at night? Is he physically able to carry out the duties I require.
The man waits on me, arms behind his back and eyes on mine. I detect little emotion and sense a patience that belies his years. These are the eyes of a much older man.
"Can you play?" I ask, nodding at the piano.
"I regret to say I can not. Is that a requirement?" he asks. A musical voice if I must give description. Pity he can't play piano.
"No," I say, placing my coffee on the table and rising, sure to smooth my dress over my knees. Approaching the piano, I sit on the bench and place my fingers on the keys.
Tapping along with Mozart, I drift into the music once more. Allowing myself to forget his presence, I lock onto a memory that rises above the others. Images of the frat house play like snapshot pictures on my brain. Shaking the scene from my mind, I stand and close the cover over the keys.
"You seem rather thin to me. Are you well? How are your appetites?" I say, taking care to place emphasis on the last word. I hope he gathers my meaning.
"I am in adequate health. My appetite comes and goes. I'd rather spend my time with books and writing."
Biting at my lip, I wait for him to continue, but he says no more. "You will need to improve on your diet in my employ. I require..."
"Yes?" he says when I pause.
"I want you to have vigor. Can you manage that?"
"You speak of country matters, I assume."
I laugh and return to the love-seat. A lover of Shakespeare. George knows how to choose for me better than I can for myself.
"I do speak of country matters, young man."
Patting the open space next to me, I wait for him to sit. When he does, I grab a remote from the table and press a button to change the music. For a moment there is silence.
"I've never had much interest in...sex." He chooses his words with care. Is he afraid to offend me or is he simply afraid?
"I'll be blunt. That puts you at something of a disadvantage for the position."
"I can't see how, El..." he begins to say, but stops himself. "How shall I address you?"
"I'm here to help you finish a novel, am I not, Mrs. Holden? What does my sexual appetite have to do with the job?"
"Did you read my novel?" I ask, tilting my head and glancing at him.