On a long undeviating road between two burgeoning villages stood a small mansion; a contradiction in terms. It contained a dozen ladies of ill repute but no apparent nearby source of patronage. Yet connections forged by its madam ensured a steady stream of gentlemen to its door, come from nearby towns and well beyond, seeking apparently welcoming bosoms in a place discreetly far from prying eyes.
Despite being some way from first bloom, Evangeline was Abbess Cora’s prize girl. Pale porcelain skin, full red lips, tresses of curling flame licking breasts of plump grandeur and an artful dress sense; every visiting gentleman would gasp as Evangeline entered le salon, trademark green gown rustling parquet floor. A dozen possibilities, but none except Cora’s designated successor possessed allure to infinite degree.
In reality Evangeline was Lottie. ‘Evangeline’ was merely a projection, a room even, and in order to enter it, gentlemen paid liberal amounts. No ordinary man could venture to guess correctly about Lottie’s interior. If you imagined Lottie despised someone, you would likely be wrong; similarly, if you surmised money and influence impressed a caged bird, you would also be in error. Lottie’s mind outstripped most mere lust-laden men’s; few if any could ever knock down a congenital pride in self-determination unfettered by Edwardian mores.
Given licence to explore Lottie, men seldom understood boundaries. Reeking of cigar smoke, eructing all manner of unpleasant odours as a result of fatty food and dental disregard, few got to kiss Lottie; use of flannel, soap and warm water was routinely required before Evangeline would take a gobful of arbor vitae.
Yet it would be easy to indulge in a see-saw cynicism, and see all men alike, all a-growling and a-longing; eagerly pawing away at Lottie in casting about for entrance to a tunnel of love, a fall into wet oblivion. Lack was every man’s common ground. Some craved confirmation, some a manifestation of wild imaginings. Some Lottie fixed tenderly, adding to a space left empty by unfulfilled lives and starved senses. Lottie licked scars and mended broken wings, was all ears, all myocardium. And at daybreak, sun-dazzled, a man left and Lottie knew a tall story was leaving too. Client became conqueror, a king, puffed up into an affirmation of life, plumped anew.
Kept in a turreted room, on demure display in its roundel windows, notions came to Lottie of being an inverse princess, trapped and looking down on stony ground from far above, awaiting rescue, for someone sufficiently noble to save a fallen woman raised up and exalted on scented pillows to be future queen of a queer domain.
And one day one man made Lottie feel like one woman; allowed Evangeline and Lottie to merge.
An unmarried writer of great erudition but modest means, Orlando was visiting a considerably more famous colleague – indeed, a great man of letters – now residing in Surrey for sweet air blown by sou’westerlies up over downs. ‘Stay as long as you like,’ said Conan Doyle, magnanimously. So Orlando stayed, and read, wrote and walked, little suspecting life was about to be turned upside down. But not long after arrival it was, and now – now leaving was difficult to contemplate. Commitments would eventually force Orlando’s return to town; far from a religious man, O prayed for CD’s good opinion, and open invitations to stay again.
Cause of Orlando’s prayers was a woman. Not just any woman, but one pursuing a profession as old as memory itself. At dinner one evening, a second guest of Conan Doyle’s tipped Orlando a wink, and after port and cigars, ensured transport was laid on. Arriving at Cora’s bordello, a twenty-nine year old virgin (yet an onanist of longstanding), Orlando in spite of nerves could not see past Evangeline.
Lottie gave all to Orlando. A man as gently timid and yet as voracious for love was not uncommon. But Orlando was exceptionally intense of eye, and full of nervous poetry. Looking into Orlando’s brown eyes, Lottie’s insides turned over. No-one else ever laid as bare a woman considered leprous by people of propriety. Orlando immediately saw all of Lottie, and L concealed only amazement at a turn of events so unexpected. Conversation between writer and slut flowed like Abbess Cora’s claret. Orlando’s inbred sense of being erudite dropped away as Lottie put womanly intelligence in service of a pleasure far beyond O’s experience. As well as servant, Lottie was master; Orlando willing pupil. Paired at last, Lottie felt vindicated for waiting, for letting scores and scores of men take possession of a body engineered for love-making.
‘Do you remember our first time?’ said Orlando one spring evening, O’s last before departure from Conan Doyle’s. Between pairs of gazing eyes resting on a single scented pillow, it played out again in loving minds. First of every way conceivable, a kama sutra from A to Z and back again. Stroked skin recalled first contact. Lottie’s present grasp of Orlando’s need summoned again frissons of novitiate excitement as experienced prostitute wrapped nervous client’s cock in pale pink drawers and expertly milked it. Evangeline’s fearless gaze met intense surprise. Orlando swooned to feel silk so soft and cool around a rigidity belonging now in every particular to Evangeline. Evangeline became Lottie and let Orlando kiss lips unused to kisses, unused to O’s soft sentience. Evangeline-Lottie wore Orlando like a glove, rising to ride loins unused to craving complete envelopment. For Orlando alone, Lottie-Evangeline was paradoxically cloven and joined.
In post-coital reverie Orlando twirled Lottie’s ringlets about a finger and dreamt of a future time. A time enabling a writer to record sexual experience, needing not to censor any detail. Orlando doubted it would ever come to pass. But Lottie said, ‘Yes, it will.’
After making love again – for already it was so – Lottie and Orlando smoked and smiled and told life stories, beginning at beginnings. ‘I want you to know my real name. It’s Lottie. Because if you want me, I want you to know and to possess a real woman, not a fantasy.’
One afternoon, Orlando studied Lottie dressing upwards from blowsy nakedness to an immaculate conception of male fantasy. Stockings (L wore flimsy gossamer like a second skin), drawers, button boots, corset, petticoat, bustle, underskirt. Subject to Orlando’s gaze Lottie’s garments became living items; O’s eyes enflamed material and so L’s desire. Lottie donned an elegant bottle green taffeta crinoline gown, cream-trimmed. Invited to do so, Orlando slowly laced Lottie’s fitted bodice. Fully garmented, Orlando wanted Lottie to undress again, just as slowly. Wanted Lottie over and over; could not bear any notion of losing L. To see no more of Lottie would be too painful.
‘Come to London; we must never be parted now.’
‘You know I cannot leave. I am indebted to Cora, and must first pay back all I owe. I can’t be yours until it is all paid. It will be years yet. No, don’t offer to pay it yourself; I know you do not possess sufficient funds.’
‘I will come back for you. I will make you mine. I will rescue you. Society be damned, you will be my wife.’
Orlando wasn’t first so to declaim for Evangeline. But Lottie felt longevity in Orlando’s declaration, and made an admission never previously gifted to any man.
‘One day, yes, I will be your wife, or you will be my abbot.’