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“I’m impressed, Emma. That was a very complicated piece and yet you had no difficulty playing it. I’m just not sure why you chose to play it in A-flat when it’s almost always performed in E. I’m not criticizing you. It was just so…different.”

Her violin teacher was a kindly old man, but he seemed incapable of offering a compliment that didn’t include some kind of ‘but’ or ‘however.’ It was what her grandmother called a left-handed compliment and her late father referred to as a compliment with shit on it. Emma winced when she thought of that word. She’d loved her daddy, but he was often a very mean and very crude man. Of course, that was almost certainly due to the fact he was nearly always drunk. Emma decided not to reply to Mr. Winslow’s concern about her choice of key. After all, if she could play it well, then the key was a matter of personal choice. And Emma had a sad but personal connection with her choice.

“May I be excused, Mr. Winslow?” Emma asked sweetly.

“Of course, dear. I’ll see you two days hence at the appointed time then?”

“Yes, sir. I won’t be late again. I promise,” she assured him. Emma arrived ten minutes late which, to Mr. Winslow, a devout Catholic like Emma and her mother, was a kind of mortal sin. That was ironic because she’d been held up by Father McKenna after confession.

She was always honest with her parish priest. Without naming him, she’d once again confessed the lust she felt for a boy named Bobby McAlister, but this time she was devastated when her penance was 1,000 Hail Marys. She loved the Blessed Virgin, but she’d never been assigned more than 10 for her wicked thoughts. This time, Father McKenna asked to see her in his office.

Even though she’d gone to Catholic school in that parish all of her life, and in spite of graduating as valedictorian, she was still intimidated by Father McKenna. She was nearly trembling when he told her to get up off the bench outside his office where she’d been waiting for him and come inside. She’d only been summoned once before, and that was because he was told she’d been a possible witness to something horribly bad. Allegedly, she’d seen two of the senior boys kissing in an empty room. She hadn’t and neither had anyone else, but that didn’t matter as the boys were both expelled for their heinous conduct—just in case. And here she was again being told to come in and sit down.

“Yes, Father?” she said without raising her eyes.

“My child, how many times have you confessed to this same sin? This lust of yours for an unnamed boy? Twenty-five? Thirty? More?”

Emma Castillaw was petrified. She was 19, but felt like a child in so many ways. She still lived with her widowed mother, she had no job, no money, no boyfriend, and she was—homely. At least that was the word most people used to describe her. Some referred to her as ‘comfortable looking’ but she knew what they meant. She had to admit she did live at home and having had only one date in her life—an uncomfortable fix-up that ended two hours early—it most certainly was a rather apt description.

“That sounds about right, Father,” she told him.

“Emma? It’s normal for a girl your age to like boys. And while we don’t encourage impure thoughts, they can arise in our minds, but we mustn’t let them grow. What is it you’re imagining? Perhaps we can find some way for you to overcome these temptations.”

Emma’s blood ran cold. How could she tell her priest what she was thinking? It was too much to ask of anyone. In fact, the genesis of her thoughts was something she couldn’t discuss—period. How could she possibly explain what she’d seen on her 18th birthday when her first and only date pretended to have gotten an emergency phone call before the movie he was taking her to see even began? Once they’d arrived at the theater, Bobby McAlister had asked her to stay and sit with him in the parking lot before they went inside. Emma thought he was the cutest boy she’d ever seen and couldn’t believe he’d asked her out. She didn’t learn until after the disaster that he only did so because his mother was friends with her mother and she’d begged Bobby’s mom to have her son ask out her Emma. After just five minutes of small talk, Bobby took her hand. A few minutes later, he leaned over and kissed her. Emma was taken completely by surprise but it was a very…pleasant…kind of surprise. She began kissing him back and didn’t stop even when Bobby stuck his tongue in her mouth. It was oddly exciting and Emma…liked it. But then he’d tried to…touch her…up there. She was so confused and frightened she pushed him away and demanded he take her home immediately. But that was only the beginning of her evil thoughts.

When she arrived at her apartment, she quietly snuck inside then did her best to silently tiptoe upstairs without being seen. She made it to the bottom of the stairs when she heard strange noises. She stopped and looked and what she witnessed was unspeakable. Her mother was naked and kneeling Beylikdüzü escort between Daddy’s knees as he was sitting on the couch. Mother had his…thing…in her mouth and daddy was saying things that were unspeakable. “Suck my cock you fucking Catholic whore!” And momma just kept doing it.

Emma was spellbound. She knew she shouldn’t watch. It was so wrong. It was…sinful. But she couldn’t help herself. She peeked around the stair post and watched until after a few minutes of that, momma stood up and climbed up on daddy’s lap and lowered herself onto his…pole thingy…and she was saying terrible things, too! “Oh, God! Oh, Jesus! Fuck my slut ass! Fuck me hard!”

That night, Emma began touching herself as she lusted after Bobby. She pictured herself doing that to him and him doing…that…to her. This went on the rest of her senior year and she was still fantasizing about these evil things with no end of her lust in sight. No, there was simply no way she could tell Father McKenna her thoughts.

“My child? If you won’t tell me your thoughts, let me ask you this. Have you tried telling this boy that you like him? Perhaps he might ask you out and then you could possibly fall in love and marry him. Wouldn’t that be preferable to living in this perpetual state of sinful lust? I must tell you, the Blessed Virgin cannot be happy with such things. Yet you seem unwilling to repent and change your ways. That is why I assigned 1,000 Hail Marys. If there is a next time it will be 10,000. Do you understand me, child?”

Emma never once looked up. She sat straight with her knees together, her folded hands in her lap. Even now, there was nothing to say. Bobby would never feel the same way about her. He was popular and athletic. She was…not. Emma wore glasses—thick glasses which corrected her nearsightedness. Her teeth weren’t straight but her hair was. Straight, brown, and plain. She was also very thin and if that wasn’t enough, God had not seen fit to bless her with…to endow her with…breasts. She was 19 and as flat as any boy. She wore a bra, but there was certainly no anatomically-necessary reason to do so. She was what she’d heard some mean boys call “a pirate’s dream.” The first time she heard that, she felt flattered—until the punch line was spoken. “Because she’s got a sunken chest!” some boy had said as the others all laughed raucously. The shame Emma felt had stayed with her ever since.

“Very well, then,” Father McKenna said. “You may be excused, but I do not want you back in my confessional next week asking for forgiveness of this same sin, my child. Even God’s patience has limits.”

Emma quietly picked up the violin case she’d brought with her and quickly walked out. She only had to walk one block to Mr. Winslow’s studio, but she knew she would now be late. Like Father McKenna, he would also be upset with her. On top of all that, her mother told her she had to begin looking for work to help make ends meet and the temp agency had called informing her she had her first job that morning at 9am. It was now 8:15 leaving her precious little time to get home, change, and take the bus to the office building in the middle of the Bronx. Fortunately, the middle of the Bronx was only six blocks away. Emma walked as quickly as she could, hoping (and praying) she wouldn’t be also be late for her first day of work. To add insult to injury, this office expected its employees to dress professionally. Because it was so cold outside, that meant Emma would need to wear her least favorite thing which emphasized her lack of…what? Cleavage? That was almost funny. Emma not only didn’t have cleavage, she didn’t even have bumps. She was as flat-chested as a girl could be. How could she tell Mr. Winslow she’d chosen A-flat as her key because that was the way she felt about herself?


“So she was still there? Dude! Talk about a dumb blonde!”

“Yeah, when I woke up, there she was walking around in my shirt.”

“No shit? That chick couldn’t buy a clue!”

Chad Braden had had too much to drink the night before. He thought he’d told her where the door was after he banged her, but he couldn’t be sure. All he knew was she was still there at 8am when his alarm woke him up. And Candy…or Connie…or Casey…or whatever…was not only there but she was…perky! “Good morning, Sunshine! What can I get you for breakfast?” she’d asked him in that ‘I’m sooo glad you’re finally awake again so I can say mindless, annoying things to you’ voice.’

“What time is it?” he asked her rhetorically. She started to answer and he said, “Look. I gotta be to work by nine so leave my shirt on the bed and…” he grabbed his wallet and handed her twenty bucks, “Here’s cab fare. Take care and have a nice day.”

Casey ripped off his shirt, threw it on the bed, then pulled on her clothes and stormed out slamming the door behind her. The loud noise served as another painful reminder of how much tequila he’d drank. “Fuck. I gotta stop doing Beylikdüzü escort this,” he said out loud.

Chad was a ladies’ man in every sense of the word. He was handsome, athletic, single, and owned a medical sales company that made him a lot of money. Okay, it had been his dad’s business for 20 years, but Chad had taken it from two local offices to over 10 throughout the Bronx and Queens in just three years. He was good at it, and the money he made let him live in a nice place in Manhattan to which he brought his endless string of one-night stands. Every morning he’d tell himself he was gonna find a nice girl and settle down, but every night he was back at one of his favorite pick-up spots bringing home some hot, new piece of ass he’d fuck then wake up alone again the following day. And more often than not, he had a hangover to boot. “Note to self,” he said out loud, “Stop drinking so damn much.”

What Chad hated the most about it was the way he refused to use the one real gift he had—the ability to see in people what they couldn’t see in themselves—when it came to women. He could size up a potential salesman in a couple of minutes. He instinctively knew whether or not they could make money for him. If he or she could but they were inexperienced, he paid for their training. If not, they walked no matter how confident or attractive they were. And he was almost never wrong.

Yet when it came to dating, Braden had long since tired of just fucking women he found physically attractive yet he kept right on doing the same thing somehow expecting different results. He’d kept count until the number got past 200 at which point it became meaningless. New York City had an endless supply of them and he was good-looking enough to reel in a new girl any night of the week. There was a challenge to it, though, as it wasn’t easy finding the kind of women he liked and their numbers were shrinking every day. Actually, they were growing every day because Braden only dated women who were very cute in the face but who had no boobs or at most maybe a tiny little bump. He had no interest whatsoever in big, floppy tits, and he didn’t give a shit how many men found that attractive. He didn’t and that was all there was to it.

To make matters worse, he had to admit it wasn’t even fun anymore. In fact, it was becoming a huge pain in the ass and something had to change. If only he could find someone he could fall in love with. Someone who was cute but also smart and…and what? Sweet? He should be able to list the qualities he wanted but after all these affairs and one-night stands and hook-ups, Chad Braden still couldn’t spell out exactly what he was looking for. He laughed when he thought about the guy who said he couldn’t define pornography but that he knew it when he saw it. Perhaps that was the best he could hope for when it came to find this elusive creature.

He shrugged off the daily conversation he had with himself knowing he’d back out ‘fishing’ as he called it around 10pm and by midnight, he’d be shlonging some hot, flat-chested thing who’d be screaming out his name even though he’d have no idea what hers was. Then he’d wake up alone and if he were to actually be honest with himself, lonely—again. That shit was really getting old.


Emma arrived out of breath at 8:59 and was met by a very authoritative-looking woman name Beverly who looked at the large wall clock as she arrived. “You must be my temp,” she said brusquely. “Let me show you where you’ll be working today.” Beverly led her down a row of cubicles and told Emma, “This is your spot. You’ll be answering the phone. Your job is to take messages. Be polite and above all else, be accurate. You’re not a salesperson. All you’re doing is keeping things afloat until she gets back tomorrow. Do you think you can do that?”

Emma assured her that she could. “Very well, then. You get 30 minutes for lunch from 12 to 12:30. There’s a cafeteria downstairs and some vending machines at the end of this corridor. Any questions?”

“No, ma’am,” Emma said quietly as she took her seat.

The phone rang constantly and by the time noon rolled around, Emma had a fairly large stack of notes neatly piled in front of her. At exactly 12 o’clock, she stood up to go downstairs. Before got to the elevator, another girl from a nearby cubicle saw her and said, “Hey! New girl! You wanna go to lunch togethuh?”

Emma turned around and saw her. She was a reverse image of Emma. Beautiful blonde hair, a great smile, pretty eyes, and big, soft, round…breasts. Like Emma, she was wearing a black, long-sleeved sweater but unlike Emma, she looked great in hers. Emma looked…well…like Emma.

“You must be the temp in fuh Jamie. She’s nevuh out but I hear the flu’s goin’ around so she called in sick. I’m Crystal, by the way.”

“Oh, hi. I’m Emma. It’s nice to meet you, Crystal.”

“Oh! You’re the shy type. Okay. So listen. I don’t see a wedding ring so I’m gonna assume you’re single. Let Escort Beylikdüzü me fill you in on this place. The guys around here will hit on anything in a skirt. You know what I mean? So unless you think the guy’s like really cute, just ignore him. But don’t ignore Mr. Braden if he says hello. He always eats with the employees and he usually talks to the new girls. Don’t worry, hon. He’s not gonna hit on you. He likes his girls with…well…let’s just say, a little something up here.”

Crystal put her hands under her ample boobs and gave them a quick lift. As she did, one of the guys saw her and said, “Need some help with those, Crystal?”

“In your wet dreams!” she hollered back. “Ya see, what’d I tell ya?” she said to Emma.

“So anyway, Mr. Braden’s just a really, really nice guy and every single girl—and most of us married ones if you know what I mean—got a huge crush on him. You’ll know why when you see him.”

They both ordered a salad and a bottle of water and sat down to eat. Crystal kept yammering away about this guy and that girl and who was doing what and who was doing whom around the office. Emma did her best not to blush as Crystal talked about things like blow jobs and getting ate out. After several minutes, she suddenly stopped talking and said, “Oh, my Gawd. There’s Mr. Braden! Now remembuh what I told you okay, hon? If he comes ovuh here just smile and answer his questions and that’ll be fine, okay? If you impress him, he might even offer you a part-time job. Just be nice and above all else—be honest. If there’s one thing he can’t stand, it’s a lieuh.”

Emma looked around nervously and saw the most handsome man she’d ever seen walking toward their table. “Good aftuhnoon, Mr. Braden!” Crystal said in her ‘city’ accent.

“Crystal. Nice to see you. You had a great third quarter. Keep it up, okay? If you do, there’ll be a nice bonus coming your way after New Year’s.” He looked at Emma and said, “I’m Chad Braden. May I?” He pointed to the empty seat and Emma sat there paralyzed with fear. He paused then said, “Do I know you?”

Crystal was absolutely beaming as she said, “Of course! Please have a seat. Emma is just a little shy. She’s our temp who’s in for Jamie Turnuh today.”

“Oh, right. Must be the flu. Ms. Turner never misses a day. So, Emma is it? Where do I know you from?” he said.

“Oh, I’m sure we’ve never met, Mr. Braden. I don’t get out much,” Emma said as she picked at her salad.

“I never forget a face,” Braden said. He took a bite of his tuna on rye and said, “You play the violin, don’t you?”

Emma froze as Mr. Braden continued. “In fact, now I remember. I saw a video of you recently. My uncle’s name is Damon Winslow and he was showing my mother a video of his most promising violin player. She called me over to watch and although I’m no musician, I have to say I was very impressed.”

“Oh. Um…well…thank you very much. He’s a very good teacher,” Emma said quietly. She still hadn’t made eye contact with Braden.

“Yes he is. He’s also very strict. I’m glad I’m not taking lessons from him anymore,” Braden said lightheartedly.

“You play the violin?” Emma asked with genuine surprise. For the first time, she managed to look at him.

“Not for a very long time, I’m afraid. I took lessons for two years but finally pitched such a fit my mom let me quit. I could barely play Turkey in the Straw by the time I gave up.”

Emma laughed before she could put her hand over her mouth. “That’s funny,” she said. Her teeth weren’t terrible, but both of her incisors overlapped making her whole smile look anything but beautiful. She was almost as self-conscious about her smile as she was about her…treasure chest. Then again, she wasn’t thrilled about the thick, black glasses she wore, either. Very quickly she added, “I didn’t mean that it was funny. I wasn’t making fun of you or anything, I was just…”

“So you do talk,” he said. “No offense taken. You have a gift, Emma. Why aren’t you pursuing it full time? The better question is has my uncle introduced you to Kalen McElroy yet? If not, that’s criminal.”

“I know who he is, of course. But I can’t imagine he’d be interested in someone like me. I mostly just play in church recitals and weddings and the like,” Emma told him. “He’s a very big name in terms of those who play the violin.”

“Then I’m going to introduce you. You need to play for him. When are you free?” he asked.

“Me? Oh, my goodness. I don’t know. I mean…”

“How about Friday evening at 7pm? I’ll have my driver pick you up and bring you to my place. Play your best piece for him and my sense is he’s gonna be wowed by you, Emma…? What’s your last name?”


“You’re gonna blow him away, Emma Castillaw.” He slid his cell phone toward her and asked her to put her name, number, and address in his contacts list.

Emma’s hands were shaking as she did so. She slid it back and Braden said, “Hmmm. My phone’s wet. Is it raining in here?”

Crystal suppressed a laugh and Emma blushed heavily. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Braden. I just get so nervous around…” She stopped herself before saying ‘handsome men’ but not before she turned a deep shade of purple.

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