She turns around to find a woman watching her. Damn. She thought she’d found a spot where she’d get peace and quiet for a few precious minutes, away from all the forced pleasantries of Peter’s campaign. Apparently not.
“Are you hiding?”
She laughs ruefully. “Is it that obvious?”
“You’re the only one out here.”
“You’re out here.”
“I got lost. You don’t look lost.”
“No. I’m not.”
She looks curiously at her visitor. She looks slightly out of place, the main hall filled with middle-aged men in dark suits and their smiling, conservative wives. She’s wearing high-heeled boots and a black evening dress that’s just a little more revealing than any other she’s seen tonight. Very dark hair, deep brown eyes, a serious face. An accent she can’t quite place.
“I’m Alicia, by the way. Alicia Florrick.”
Alicia smiles sheepishly. “Right. And you are?”
Alicia waits a beat for the surname. It doesn’t come.
She finds herself grinning at her for no apparent reason. Kalinda grins back.
“Are you having a nice time Kalinda?”
Alicia laughs at her bluntness. “You’re supposed to at least pretend a little.”
“Am I? Why?”
“I...well, because...it’s polite.”
“This whole party is for my husband. Aren’t you worried about offending me?”
“You’re hiding, but I have to pretend?”
“Yeah, OK, OK. Fair point.”
Alicia takes in a breath of the fresh night air. “So do you work for the campaign?”
“Sort of. I’m an investigator. Well, that’s my day job.”
“And what’s your other job?”
“My night job’s more interesting. You might have heard of me, actually. Some people know me by my professional name.”
“Are you an actress?” You’re beautiful enough for an actress, Alicia thinks.
“No. My professional name’s Leela. Have you heard of Leela?”
Alicia stares at her, dumbstruck. Leela. Boy has she heard of Leela.
Coffee and cake with her girlfriends, five-bedroom houses and manicured lawns. Conversations about growing children, and workaholic husbands, and their weight. And scandals that were waiting to happen. All kinds of affairs: with secretaries, colleagues, mistresses and prostitutes. Husbands deep in the closet for their day jobs and cruising the gay bars at night. Men who liked to be tied up, to be spanked, to be dominated. A whole spectrum of sexual temptation.
And Leela. Leela, who was rarely spoken of, but famous anyway. Infamous. Because Leela wasn’t a scandal that belonged to the husbands. Leela belonged to the wives.
The first time Alicia had heard of Leela she hadn’t believed the story, had thought it was a silly urban myth. Women don’t pay for sex, and they certainly don’t pay to have sex with another woman. But then the stories kept coming...frustrated, neglected, unsatisfied women, all falling for Leela’s charms. Paying thousands of dollars for a single hour and not regretting it. Recommending her, even. Saying that she’d saved their sanity.
And then finally, after years of rumors that could never be corroborated, she had met a woman who’d admitted to being with Leela herself. A woman whose husband was banging his secretary and who hadn’t had good sex in years, who met Leela at a party and found herself unexpectedly...infatuated. Who went to bed with her one night and forgot that she was supposed to be straight. And woke up the next morning and asked for more.
The famous Leela.
“I’m guessing from your reaction that that’s a yes.”
Alicia’s blushing bright red, gaping stupidly. She turns her face away. “I have to get back to my husband.”
“I’m assuming you don’t approve?”
Something about the question, the casual tone of her voice, makes Alicia angry.
“You assume correctly.” Don’t you dare judge me, she thinks. You’re the one sleeping with strangers.
“That’s a pity.”
“I thought you might like to come home with me tonight.”
Alicia tries to stop the shock from showing on her face, but from the spark of triumph she sees in Kalinda’s expression she knows that she hasn’t succeeded. She feels embarrassed and angry, almost humiliated, and she starts to walk away.
“Hey, don’t go. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to...”
Alicia meets her eyes and is surprised by the new sincerity that she sees there.
“You didn’t meant to...what?”
“To upset you. I’m sorry.”
“I’m not upset.”
“Then stay and talk to me for a while. Please. You know you don’t want to go back in there just yet.”
Alicia weighs her options. She warily steps towards her again.
“Why did you say that? About...”
“Because you’re the most beautiful woman in the room.”
Alicia raises her eyebrows. “That’s quite a line.”
“It’s not a line. It’s the truth. I’ve seen you before, at these things. I was hoping for you tonight.”
She gapes at her. “How can you...you can’t just assume that I’d...this is a ridiculous conversation.”
“I didn’t say that I assumed, I said I was hoping.”
“I’m married, and straight, and I’ve known you for all of five minutes. This is still a ridiculous conversation.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. How long does it usually take you to know you want someone?”
Alicia shakes her head in disbelief and tries to regain her equilibrium.
“No? Well it doesn’t take me longer than 30 seconds, usually. And like I said, I’ve seen you before.”
“Then you’ve seen me with my husband.”
“I’ve seen you on the talk shows. I’ve seen you in the flesh. I’ve wanted you every time. Just like I want you now.”
She can’t quite catch her breath. “You must get a lot of practice at this kind of talk.”
“You think I’m lying?”
“I think it’s your job to lie.”
“I never lie. I never sleep with someone I’m not attracted to. I can afford to be very, very selective.”
Alicia thinks of her friend, the one who’d confessed that she’d slept with Leela. Her beautiful, slim friend with the intelligent green eyes, whose thick, dark hair she used to envy.
“You think that makes it better?”
“Of course. Nobody loses.”
“You’re selling your own body! It’s...appalling!”
Kalinda touches her for the first time, a small, warm hand on the inside of her elbow. “Is that what you really think?”
“Is that what your friends thought when they were begging me to touch them one last time?”
Kalinda’s gaze holds her captive for 10 seconds...15...20. She’s lightly caressing her arm with a rhythmic touch, fingers barely brushing her skin. The whole world has gone quiet, the whole world’s stopped. When she eventually manages to wrench her eyes away she sees a few party guests walking to their cars and it jolts her back to reality.
“I need to go.” She pulls her arm away and smoothes her dress down. She’s horrified to see that her hands are shaking.
“It was lovely to finally meet you, Alicia. I hope we meet again.”
She looks into her eyes one last time before she returns to Peter’s side. For the next hour she makes small talk about politics and the weather and movies and the campaign. She doesn’t hear half of it. She pointedly refuses to look around for Kalinda – Leela. At midnight she makes an excuse and asks Peter if they can leave.
When they arrive home she changes into her nightgown, brushes her teeth and studies her flushed face in the mirror. You drank a lot of wine. It’s the adrenalin from the party. You were bound to be curious, it’s only natural. She splashes water on her face once, twice.
She gets into bed and waits impatiently for Peter. When he joins her and says “Goodnight” she reaches over and takes his hand.
“You were great tonight,” she says. “I need...”
She guides his hand down.
“Jesus,” he says, grinning at her. “I really must have been great tonight.”
She moans as he strokes her. For the next few minutes she fights hard against her body; she’s not usually so fast, so ready, but there’s nothing she can do as he repeatedly brushes his thumb against her clit, and the shuddering moan that is released from her puts a triumphant look on her husband’s face.
“Wow,” says Peter. “I should take you to these things more often.”
She smiles faintly at him, brushing her hair from her eyes, trying to recover her breathing. She caresses Peter’s face, and after a few minutes she reaches down to touch him.
“If you’re tired...”
“I’m not tired. I want you inside me.”
He pauses for a few seconds, unused to such a direct request, but then does exactly what he’s told. Her second orgasm hits her as quickly and as hard as her first. When it’s over she watches her husband fall gently into sleep. One restless hour later, she finally follows him.