He already knows nearly everything about me. I’ve planned it that way. He knows I’m 5′4″. He knows my measurements, 34-24-36. He knows I’m a natural brunette. He knows I hold a Master’s degree in English literature from a prestigious university. He knows what my voice sounds like because he’s heard it on audio. He knows that at twenty-five years of age, I’m still a virgin.
He has proof of the latter. All of them do. Each man behind the darkened glass had his physician independently verify the integrity of my hymen. It’s amusing, really, the value some still place on the fragile membrane that minimally narrows the entryway into the passage men most desire.
Can I blame them, really, for not taking my word for it? No. Not with the ones vying to breach it willing to start the bidding at $100,000. I was subjected to seven careful exams, and now each man is armed with a certificate of purity.
There’s a digital board on the wall. It’s set at all zeroes, and it occurs to me that once the number flashes onto the board it will become sort of a countdown clock. I’ve planned this. I’ve planned all of this, down to the letter. But when the bidding starts, each incremental increase in my price will draw me one step closer to losing the power I’ve held throughout this whole process. When the bidding stops, I’ll hand myself over to the man who will deflower me (such an archaic word!) and train me sexually in any manner he desires.
It’s more than my hymen they’re after. This is a chance for one of these men to leave a lasting imprint on another person, to teach her, to program her. As someone who has enjoyed power over them through this process, I can relate to the heady rush of control.
The room I’m in is circular. I planned it this way, too. It wasn’t easy to find a venue like this, but here I am. I’m on a slightly raised dais. When the bidding starts, it will slowly revolve and they’ll be reminded with each rotation of what they’re bidding on. I’m not naked, but I might as well be for the way this dress clings to me. It’s the lightest shade of pink, evoking innocence, and the top is molded to my firm, upright breasts. I’m wearing a thin bra and requested the temperature be turned down to sixty-seven degrees, not so cool as to raise gooseflesh on my arms, but cool enough to harden my nipples. The dress is especially flattering where it hugs my ass. I’ll admit it. I have the perfect ass, with round, pert cheeks well-muscled by hours on the elliptical. I considered the gym membership an investment in my future. The days I spent sweating away to tone every part of my anatomy to perfection were all leading up to this moment.
My gaze drifts to the clock on the wall. One minute. That’s all that remains. The red second hand is beginning its trip from twelve to twelve. I use all the techniques I learned in meditation classes to keep myself calm. I may be a virgin, but I refuse to be a trembling one. Besides, trembling is hardly recommended when wearing four-inch heels.
The room resounds with a chime as the minute runs out. A voice fills the room. It’s a familiar voice.
“Gentleman, the time has come. Eight of you will bid today, but only one of you will take home the prize.”
I’m the prize.
Elliot Simms has acted as my broker since this whole thing began. A computer savant, he’s handled nearly everything. At first, he was dismissive of my idea. That didn’t surprise me, though. As my very best friend, I expected him to be protective. Then, almost overnight, he decided that it was doable, so long as it was done right, so long as I had someone to handle the details in the proper way. There are men out there looking for an offer like this, he told me, and he could find them. What’s more, he could do so online without anyone finding out. So while I worked to make myself perfect, Elliot slaved away looking for prospective bidders. In the end, there were over a dozen eligible candidates, but I trusted Elliot to winnow the list down to the eight men staring out at me.
“Bidding will start at $100,000.” Elliot’s voice flows through the room. “The winning bid not only buys Maeve’s virginity, but the right to train her sexually, your way, for a full month. At the end of training, should you desire, you will have the option of retaining her for a full year for the same amount as your bid. Maeve, however, has the right to decline that offer.”
Elliot reminds the men of the rules. There is no time limit on the bidding. There are two buttons in front of them, he says. The green button is for bidding. Bids will be in increments of $10,000. If a bidder cannot continue, he will push the red button to indicate that he is out. Once a bidder pushes the red button, he will be immediately led to a waiting car and taken to the airport.
“Let us begin.”
The zeroes on the digital display change to the starting amount, and a man in a blue suit walks into the room. He faces the bank of windows. The dais I’m standing on begins to slowly revolve. I can see now that there are recessed lights spaced apart underneath the windows, two beneath each window. They begin to flash green. The men behind the window are bidding.
I do not look back at the board, but by the time I’ve completed my first revolution, the amount is already up to $200,000. I do not smile. I do not divulge the satisfaction I feel at knowing this is going as well as I planned. One month from now, I will be a wealthy woman, simply for selling to a billionaire what I could have given away to any struggling college student who’d have thanked me with dinner and a movie.
Elliot chose the lighting that bathes me in an almost ethereal glow. Presentation is everything. From the production quality videos that showed me running on the beach (Hawaii in a bikini) to interviews in which I haltingly expressed my views on losing my virginity (I’m scared but know the man who buys it will take good care of me), I’ve been sold as innocent and sweet, a delicate morsel waiting to be savored with my sun-kissed skin and shy smile.
They cannot know that I’m innocent in body only. My decision to remain a virgin was one made deliberately in my early college years after I read an article about a woman who sold her virginity to the highest bidder. I think I can get more than she did, and while I may play the trembling neophyte, I’ve studied sex, both the mechanics and the art. I’ve read accounts of first experiences gone good and bad. I fully intend to gently urge my buyer—subtly, of course—into making this the experience that I want.
The second revolution and the bidding is up to $375,000. Elliot is reminding them of the pleasures that await. “She’s undergone full body electrolysis,” he says. “She’s unbelievably smooth; her skin is silk. You’ll be the first to touch her, the first to taste her virgin dew.”
He’s prepared me for these shocking remarks, and the lights are flashing green beneath the windows as he reminds the men that it’s a rare pleasure these days to sink one’s cock into the tight, quivering pussy of a true innocent. As if on cue, I blush prettily and drop my eyes. I catch my full lower lip between my teeth and look up at the windows from beneath my curled lashes.
$430,000. That’s the number when the first red light comes on. A second follows. Elliot announces that two of the men could not afford the pleasure. The field is smaller, and this seems to spur competition among the six remaining bidders. The green lights come on one after another. The bidding is now just shy of half a million dollars. I toss my hair slightly, and it settles in a shiny mantle around my shoulders. The dais rotates and I shift, using my silhouette to best advantage. My nipples are clearly visible through the bodice of my dress.
The bidding slows. Two more rotations and we’re up to $540,000 and two more red lights go off. There are four now, but only two lights are flashing. They are on either side of the middle lights, which haven’t flashed red yet. Those bidders are waiting. These are smart men. They are like lions watching a hyena chasing prey. They’ll sit back until it’s exhausted and then move in for the kill. There’s a pause in the action at $560,000 and then one of the middle lights flashes green. It’s quiet for a moment, and then one after another, the two side lights flash red.
Now there are two. Elliot starts to raise the gavel on the last bid when the green light beside it comes on. The final two are off again. I part my legs just a little, knowing the light coming through my dress will show off the outline of my shapely legs. The bidding is up to $600,000.
It stops, and Elliot’s smooth voice issues a warning. “Going, going…”
The bidders can increase the bid by keying it in. Suddenly the screen flashes a new number. I don’t know who made the bid.
“Bidding is now at $700,000.”
$750,000. There’s been a counter. I hold my breath, and think of the vacation I’ll be taking in Paris a little over a month from now.
Perhaps a villa by the sea…
Fresh baguettes every morning…
I should probably brush up on my French…
The red light comes on under one of the bidders.
“Gone. Sold to Bidder Number 5.”
The dais stops revolving and I’m facing the dark window under which the single green light is glowing. I can’t see the man behind the glass, but I know he’s there. I know he’s staring at me. I can feel it, and it’s the oddest sensation, and for the first time since I walked into the room, I feel unnerved.
When I was a child, my parents took me to the big cat house at the zoo. It was crowded, and I managed to slip away from them. They found me by the lion enclosure. A large male lion was standing in front of the glass, just staring at me. Even though we were separated by the barrier, my mother ran over and scooped me up.
“I didn’t like the way he was looking at her,” she told my father. “He was looking at her like he wanted to devour her.”
“It’s a good thing the glass is there,” my father had joked.
It’s a good think the glass is there. I realize my heart is pounding, but is it from the memory of what I faced as a child, or the reality of what I face as a woman?
“Maeve?” Even though the touch on my arm is gentle, I startle. Elliot is at my side. I glance at him, and glance warily back at the glass. “Are you okay?”
Breathe, Maeve. I will myself to calm as I face my friend.
“I’m fine,” I say.
“Are you sure?” He cocks his head and studies my face through his wire-rimmed glasses. “You look a little pale.”
“I’m fine.” I repeat the words with resolve, as much for my own benefit as for his.
I glance back to the window, but I know he’s no longer behind it. Again, I don’t know how I know. I just do. I look back at Elliot.
“So who is he?”
Elliot doesn’t immediately answer. Instead, he turns away.
“Elliot?” I ask. “Who is he?”
“You know I’m not supposed to say.”
I nod, although I’m a little piqued at Elliot for being a stickler for the rules. It’s in the agreement that I’ll go into this whole thing innocent, even of the knowledge of who won the auction. I don’t know his name, his age, or anything else. Elliot handled everything, and we both agreed that if I were to go through with this, then Elliot would hand pick the bidders.
“If it makes you less nervous, I know he’ll take care of you,” Elliot says as he takes my hand and helps me down from the dais. Now that I’m no longer standing over him, I come up to his shoulder. He’s smiling down at me. “You trust me, don’t you?”
I wind my arm through his as we walk toward the room’s single exit.
“Of course I trust you,” I say. “You’re my best friend. I would never have trusted anyone else to know about this, let alone help me pull it off.” I look up at him. “And you know it’ll be worth your while as much as mine.”
“Yes.” We’ve reached the door now and he opens it and steps back. I know Elliot sees me as an equal, but even so he maintains a certain tenderness and chivalry with me that has always made me feel protected. I walk through and he follows.
“But you know I didn’t do it for the money,” he says as he shuts the door leading to the hallway in which we now stand.
“I know that, Elliot.”
“I did it to protect you, to make sure that the potential bidders were all…” he pauses as if struggling to find the word, “…worthy of you, worthy of what they’re getting.”
I reach up and touch his face. “My brilliant friend. Thank you.”
He steps back, and I withdraw my hand. Elliot is an odd duck. When we became friends in college, I thought he was attracted to me, but he never made a single advance. I’d have thought him gay if he’d ever brought home a boyfriend to our shared apartment or even the tale of one, but eventually I realized that Elliot is one of those rare types who prefer hardware and code to soft bodies and emotion. And while I know he cares, the way he expresses it defies description. It hardly matters, though. He’s always had my back. He’s always kept my secrets, so it made sense to come to him with my biggest one.
“So I guess he’s waiting,” I say when we enter a small office. Through the blinds I can see a limousine in the parking lot.
“He’s already gone,” he says. “His car will take you to the airport.”
“I’ll ride alone?” I feel a tiny bit offended. “I’d think he’d want to meet me in person.”
Elliot smirks. “The ultra-wealthy are eccentric,” he says. “Or so I’m told. Maybe he wants to meet you at dinner. You’ll arrive to find a yellow ballroom and enter a dining room where the flatware and teapots sing and dance.”
“Have you bid me away to a beast?” I’m giggling now.
“Yes,” he says with a grin. “And now he’ll whisk you away to his castle, my Belle.”
I roll my eyes and grin. I’m going to miss him while I’m gone.
Elliot raises the cuff of his shirt and looks at his watch. “You do need to get to the airport.”
“Can you help me with my bags?” I ask, walking to the stack of suitcases I’ve carefully packed for my trip.
At the sound of my name I stop. Something in the way he says it…
“He doesn’t want you to take anything.”
“But my things?”
“Apparently he wants to supply all you need.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I say. “The things I packed…”
“Maeve.” Elliot reaches out and catches my arm. He’s looking down at me with an almost grave expression. “The agreement is clear. As soon as the auction is over, the man who had the winning bid owns you.”
“He owns the rights to my virginity, my sexuality…” I begin to argue, but even as I do, I recall the stipulations. I agreed to have the winning bidder house and meet all my material needs, should he so desire. And it seems the bidder so desires.
“Is it really so bad?” Elliot asks gently. “To have some filthy rich man buy you double what you already have? Remember, this is not included in the bid price. Anything he spends in the way of gifts and maintenance is not included.” He arches a brow. “And you can bring it back with you.”
I cheer myself with fantasies of turning some gaudy diamond into cash for a sleek convertible.
“I suppose you’re right,” I sigh. “I stand to make a lot of money. If he wants to spoil me, I won’t complain.”
“That’s my girl.”
My heart aches a little. It’s happening. It’s really happening. I’m leaving my nice, safe world for the unknown. I’m leaving the apartment I share with my tidy nerd friend to sell my body to a total stranger. I’ll be back in a month, unless the situation is tolerable enough to extend my stay and my income, but even so it suddenly feels surreal, and part of me wants to grab Elliot and tell him that I take it back.
He seems to sense this, and keeps a firm hand on my lower back as we head to the car. Elliot and I both know that what just took place is legally binding. I signed the papers before the bidding began, and a man rich enough to shell out the winning bid is rich enough to make trouble we can’t afford should I back out.
The driver of the limo has exited and is standing by the door, which is open to reveal a cavernous interior. A blast of cool air hits me as I approach. I turn back to Elliot.
“Water my plants while I’m gone,” I say.
“Feed my fish?”
“They’re our fish,” he says. “And you know I’ll take care of them.”
“The new season of Doctor Who is coming up,” I remind him. “DVR them, but don’t hit me with spoilers when I come back.”
“Promise me.” I hold out my hand. “Pinky swear.”
He rolls his eyes, but the pinky swear makes me feel better.
I hug him then, feeling him tense as he always does when we touch. He returns it, and although it feels awkward and perfunctory, it’s okay because it’s Elliot, and that’s how Elliot hugs.
I turn and nod to the driver, who’s stood there like a soldier the entire time, ramrod straight. He’s impossibly tall, and pale. He does not return my nod, nor does he smile. I climb into the car and the door closes.
The windows are tinted. I cannot see out. There’s a divider between me and the driver. I cannot see him. I hear his door shut as I sink into the butter-soft leather seat. There’s a mini bar, and I rifle through the tiny bottles before splashing some Langley’s gin over three cubes of ice I’ve put in a heavy crystal cup.
I rarely drink, but the smooth alcohol feels good sliding down my throat, and since I’ve not eaten, it only takes a few minutes for the effect I was looking for. The butterflies in my stomach are starting to settle.
I shift in my seat and wonder how long the ride will be, and whether I’ll be allowed to change before I get on the plane that will ferry me to my final destination. The dress I’m wearing—so perfect for showcasing my body—now feels tight and constricting. I imagine the bidder removing it, and wonder what he will be like? Will he be a handsome but shy entrepreneur who’s always wanted an innocent woman for the novelty? Or perhaps an older man longing to leave one last, final impression on a young woman he’ll pretend he didn’t have to buy.
I close my eyes and try to conjure the sound of his voice. Will he be a foreigner? Will his assurances that he’ll be gentle be conveyed in broken English? I imagine him behind me, imagine looking over to see the manicured fingers slide the negligee strap from my shoulder. Beyond that, everything gets murky. I know all about the mechanics of sex; I’ve studied it. I know there will be a bit of pain upon entry. One of the doctors who examined me told me what I already knew—which is that hymens vary in degrees of thickness. Mine is neither thick nor thin, but substantial enough that my first will be rewarded by the sight of virgin blood, should he like that sort of thing.
What I haven’t been able to imagine is how I’ll feel about all of this. I’ve been so clinical in my approach to this whole process, considering my body a commodity. I’ve told myself that it’s simply a physical act, and that when the time comes I’ll be able to behave as I imagine Elliot might, devoid of attachment to either my partner or my own lost innocence.
The car, which had been moving along at a brisk pace, now slows and turns. Through the tinted windows, I see we are headed toward an airplane hangar. There’s a private Gulfstream jet off to the side, facing the runway. The door is open, the stairs down waiting for me to climb them.
I don’t see the driver when he finally opens the door. I feel unsettled and exposed without so much as a handbag to my name. I want something to cling to. I have nothing, and when I enter the plane it’s as quiet and empty as the car.
No pilot greets me, but there is a covered tray on the small table in the elaborate private area where I assume I’ll be sitting. The butterflies have returned as I strap myself in. I’m barely settled before the plane taxies down the runway and lifts into the air. I look out the window and watch all that is familiar to me recede beneath wispy gray clouds.
“I’ve been told that you’re expected to eat the lunch that’s been prepared for you.”
I jump at the sound of the disembodied voice. Someone is watching me.
I clear my throat. “Thank you,” I say. “I don’t have much of an appetite.”
“You’re expected to eat the lunch he had prepared for you.”
The inflection is different, so I know the voice is not a recording. The repeated command and the tone make it clear that the issue is non-negotiable, and I feel myself pique at the order. But I’m a big believer in picking one’s battles, and whether to enjoy a gourmet lunch isn’t one of them.
I lift the domed lid and move it aside to find enough food to feed five people. There’s a huge slab of salmon with a caper and dill sauce, roasted corn soup, a colorful arugula salad, and a salted chocolate almond torte.
It’s been ages since I’ve had real food. I’m used to counting calories and carbs to keep myself as close to perfect as I can possibly be. If I faltered in my strict diet plan, Elliot stepped in to help. He was like a drill sergeant at meal time. When I was tempted to indulge, he reminded me how even the slightest change to my silhouette could cost me thousands at bidding time.
“These men have seen your video,” he said. “They’re going to expect the woman they’re bidding on to be the same weight and shape as the woman they’ve been fantasizing about.”
It’s difficult to break old habits. Still, I’ve been told to eat and I do, even though the rich food feels decadent and heavy and leaves me with a sense of guilt as large as the calorie count. My stomach, unaccustomed to such fullness, makes my dress feel even tighter.
I wonder where I’m going. I look out the window, hoping the landscape below will provide a clue, but all I see are the tops of clouds so thick they look as though they plane could park on one without falling through.
I’m feeling heavy, and not just from the food. It’s fatigue, the onset so sudden and intense that I close my eyes and lay my head back against the seat. I attribute it to the richness of the food, recalling how my family would all fall into a stupor after a big Thanksgiving dinner. I wonder if I have time to nap before we land. I don’t want to muss my hair in my slumber. The pressure to be perfect remains strong. But the temptation to sleep is stronger. Before I know it, I’m out.