“Now … the conditions,” Joseph said, almost to himself.
“Special conditions,” Patricia corrected.
“Hmm.” Joseph nodded, then glanced at me. “Dian, firstly, are you still interested in what I said?”
“If it’s real, then yes, of course.” Was it real? Wasn’t he teasing me? A little fun at the expense of the poor native girl before he flew back to his rich Western world?
“You really could save enough for a degree. I can afford it, can’t I?” Joseph glanced at Sam and Patricia in turn. They both nodded.
“But what you need to understand is…” Joseph stopped, searching for the appropriate words.
Patricia spoke up. “Joseph can be a little … intense.”
“Really?” Joseph asked. Both Sam and Patricia nodded.
“I suppose I can be—at times.” He smiled, then met my confused gaze. “If you were to enter my employ, you would be required to … immerse yourself completely in the role.”
“Completely,” Patricia echoed.
“Body and soul,” Sam added.
“I don’t understand…”
“Joseph treats us very generously…” Sam said slowly, as if I was suddenly supposed to understand what he meant.
Patricia tried to clarify. “So—we do everything he tells us to do.”
I shook my head. “I’m still not sure—”
“Will the pair of you stop pussyfooting around?” Joseph snapped good-naturedly.
“Sometimes…” Patricia said carefully, “we all sleep in the same bed.” There was a long moment of silence before I finally spoke.
“Oh,” was all I said. Then—“Oh!”
The reason for Joseph’s apparent generosity suddenly became clear. He slept with his staff. He had sex with them. Joseph must have recognized the expression on my face, a mix of fear, uncertainty, curiosity and an overwhelming need to ask a hundred questions.
“So now you know. You have a choice to make, Dian. You could choose to remain here, or you could spend a year with us”—he indicated Sam and Patricia—“and have the best experiences ever. Plus…” He held up a forefinger. “You will probably learn more about real economics that you would at university. Hell, you might not even want a degree at the end of it.”
“You might not need it,” Sam said.
“If you’re good enough…” Patricia began.
“I might give you a job with my company.” He leaned back. “So, one year with us, or spend the rest of your life trying to save your coffee tips.”
“No one tips me,” I muttered. I tried to imagine what a life with Joseph van der Waals might be like. Sharing his bed? I glanced at him quickly and decided I wasn’t appalled by the idea. It might even be nice. But to give myself over to him completely? I wasn’t even sure what that might mean—aside from the obvious. I straightened up and took a good look around the terminal.
Agustina was still watching me from behind the coffee stand. Hundreds of people were passing by, filling the building with noise. My future could still be here, a future of hard work, sore feet, and ungrateful customers. In twelve months, I’d barely earned enough to pay for a month’s college fees. I would have to work for twelve years to be able to begin at college, and even then I’d have to keep working in order to eat. Unless I found a better job which paid more. But then, of course, I wouldn’t have time to attend college. No, my present future was a muddled mess. Joseph’s offer was an amazing opportunity—except for his ‘special conditions.’
Sam recognized my doubt. “It’s really not that bad, Dian.” He glanced at Joseph. “He’s quite gentle in the bedroom.”
I stared at him. “You’ve slept with Joseph?”
He shrugged and looked away, as if he wasn’t prepared to discuss it. But Patricia’s hand appeared on Joseph’s shoulder. He smiled as she leaned in and pressed her cheek to his.
“I’ll take care of you, Dian,” she said. “If Joseph is happy for me to do so.”
“Would you like that, Dian?” Joseph asked with a twinkle in his eye. I studied Patricia’s gentle smile for a moment. Her manner brought me some comfort. I wouldn’t be diving head-first into this adventure all alone. And Sam seemed nice, too. I weighed up my options one last time, and decided that if I didn’t at least give this a good try, I would probably spend the rest of my life wondering what it would have been like.
“I will offer you something else. If you decide you don’t like my ways, I can have my pilot return you to Jakarta. You can resume your old life. Your old job.” He glanced back at the coffee stand. Agustina turned away quickly.
“You would do that?” I asked.
“For you, I would. But I think you’ll enjoy working with us.” He reached out and squeezed my hand. His skin felt warm against mine. His touch suddenly made the whole situation real. I wasn’t dreaming this, and it didn’t look like they were going to laugh at me and then run away. My future as an educated woman could be a reality. And these people seemed trustworthy. So, I made my decision, speaking quickly before I could “chicken out” as they said on TV.
“I would be happy to try working with you, although I’m still not sure what you would have me doing.”
“Trust me, Dian Cinta, we will fill your year with adventure.”
And that was how my new life began.
Containing all things romance.