Annabelle finally contacted me. "Let's meet at the spa," she said. So, as per our normal ritual, we were soon lying next to each other, naked. Except this time, we had other people in the room who were currently busy rubbing essential oils on our backs.
"Isn't it wonderful having a massage? It takes away all your tension." Both of us were lying on our fronts but we still faced each other. I wondered if Annabelle was having some trouble. Time with me always spelled an escape for her. An escape from her marital status, an escape from the lonliness she felt. I was the total opposite of her millionare husband. The masseuses were working on our backs and Annabelle had closed her eyes and gone to sleep. She always looked beautiful when she slept. Just like a baby.
When the Boss told me about Project 9, I took a long time thinking about my approach. She was very picky about her company. She would never spend her time with someone who wasn't rich. After marrying her husband, she got herself a new group of friends. They had to be from the socialite circle. She admired art but she never collected art if it didn't have any value. She was a very practical artist.
Finally I decided to seduce her in a romantic yet slightly stalker-ish way. It was a risky approach and will not work with women who have plenty of attention and were very sure of themself.
One morning, Project 9 arrived at her art gallery and found a pencilled portrait of herself stuck at the door. The portrait showed an image of her having her morning coffee at a cafe with a penseive expression. At the bottom right corner, I signed off with an "e". The next morning, there was a portrait painting of Project 9. Her painted self was observing some new art which had arrived yesterday. Every morning, she would find a different portrait of herself which depicted an activity she did the day before. And every portrait would have the same mysterious signature. I did this everyday for a month and her curiousity was piqued.
She stuck on the door a note for me. It read, "Meet me at the cafe where I have breakfast at 6pm, tomorrow."
I pretended to be a lovelorn, struggling artist who was obsessed with her. Although outwardly she may look like a confident and sophisticated woman, inside she was starved of affection by her very rich but almost-never-around husband. I was a welcome addition to her soon-becoming-boring life.
She was smart enough to not believe me totally and even hired a private investigator to stalk me at some point. Ironic, isn't it.
Annabelle found out that I wasn't the innocent artist I pretended to be but she didn't seem to mind at all. As long as I provided her with ample satisfaction and she didn't see me with other projects, she wanted us to continue seeing each other. She concluded, "I think it is impossible for one man to stay faithful to their partner. Not that I am being faithful to my husband either."
We finished our massage and headed for the hot tub. We sat next to each other. I placed my arm around her. "How is the painting going?" she asked.
"It will be done soon. I can pass it to you on our next meeting."
"I'll look forward to it. Ethan, my husband will be away on a long business trip next month. Shall we have a staycation at one of the hotels at Sentosa?"
Since staying with Project 13, I had never been away for more than a day. I wondered if she would be alright without me. Images of a pitiful, starving girl flashed across my mind.
"Ethan?" Annabelle prodded.
"It sounds great. How many days?"
"Let's do it for three days."
Maybe I can arrange for food to be delivered to her during those three days. I should also warn her against talking to strangers, especially tall, dark and handsome strangers like Daniel.
Annabelle continued, "It is a real bore, but my husband will be around for the next few weeks. His company is sponsoring some literary competition."
"What's that about?" I asked.
"It's some competition for children stories. It will only be announced at some gala event next week. I wish you could go Ethan, I will be so bored playing the trophy wife."
I replied by planting a kiss on her lips.
I returned home to see the familar sight of Project 13 working on her laptop. "Does this mean you know the kind of story you want to write?" I asked.
"Yes, I do. Bunny, have you ever seen snow?"
"Once," I replied. Project 11 took me to Seoul for Christmas last year and it was the first time I've seen snow.
"I've never seen snow. Please tell me how it's like."
"It's beautiful seeing them fall from the sky. They look like sugar crystals dropping from above, except they tasted cold and wet. Snowfall was beautiful because that was when snow was at its freshest. However when they covered the streets and pavements, it became too cold for me to bear."
"Bunny, you are a wonderful muse," she said, approvingly.
"What is your story about?" I asked.
"It is about a dog and a rabbit who became friends in the animal shelter. They both escape in order to search for snow in Singapore."
"It sounds cute," I replied.
Project 13 opened her eyes wide. "It's not cute, it is a tragic story!"
"Is it for children?"
"I guess children can read it but it's for adults too."
Will Project 13 be interested in attending the gala event? I knew the answer before I asked. But if she really was interested in becoming a writer, it helps to rub shoulders with the influential bigwigs. It will be especially useful for Project 13 to have some rich backing after I disappear from her life with the million dollars too.
I tried to bring up the subject, "There is this party that happens this Saturday. At this party, they will announce the commecement of a writing competition for children stories and there will be many important people attending. Would you like to go?"
"No thanks, I rather stay home and write."
I suddenly leaned towards her and smelled her hair. It smelled bad. "When was the last time you washed your hair?" Project 13 thought for a while and replied, "I don't know. Maybe two months ago. I usually wash my hair whenever I take a shower."
"What?!" I cried. This will never do. I don't want to introduce a smelly writer to sponsors. But I guess I should convince her to go first. "Look, this party will have important people from the publishing industry and people who can help the publishing business. You should go and talk to them."
"Because these are the people who can make your dream a reality."
"Are you coming too?" she asked. I didn't think it would be a good idea to be acquianted with Annabelle's husband but then I knew Project 13 would never attend the event alone either.
"I'll go with you but you first need to bathe, wash your hair and buy a new dress."
"Because first impressions count." I was trying hard to contain my frustration.
"But shouldn't my writing be all that matters?" she asked. Well, she was right but in the real world, people are attracted to good looks, money and influence. And in any career, people are usually the deciding factor between success and failure. But I didn't think she would understand all that.
"I think it is hard being a writer if you do not talk to people," I said.
"Why?" she asked again. She sounded like those toddlers who question everything an adult says.
"I mean, you need to talk to people in order to craft believable characters, even if the characters are a dog and rabbit."
"But people...that relationship which binds two people together it brings nothing but pain."
"But it can bring happiness too. I'm a person too right?"
"Well, you are not really a person."
"Trust me, there will be lots of interesting people at the party and you need to be dressed well to attend. I'll help you with that, just like the fairy godmother," I said, giving her the sweetest smile I could master.
Project 13 finally agreed. I went on to lend her my shower gel and shampoo (she actually didn't have any of her own) and took her out shopping. Before that, I insisted that she wear anything except her nightgowns. I just knew sales staff will not give someone in a nightgown proper service.