The Pleasure of Your Company: A short story by Felisa Daskeo
“Nothing’s wrong if you try, Monica.” Rachelle tried to convince her friend as the two walked down the shady lane. The sun was almost halfway down the mountains in the distance. The tall trees served as an umbrella for both as they walked under the glaring sun.
“It’s not a tryout, Rachelle. A relationship is a serious matter and love for me is something to treasure- not a game with a tryout. I can’t do it,” Monica said flatly.
Rachelle beamed at her friend. Just as she thought, Monica would not be interested in money. She knew her friend very well. She was a principled young woman.
“It’s not every day that you get an opportunity like this, Monica. You need it. Any woman would grab the opportunity to become queen of this man’s palace.”
Monica threw her friend a quick glance. “If you were in my place, would you willingly accept the offer?” She sounded annoyed.
Rachelle widened her eyes and smiled. “Of course! Who wouldn’t!” Then she sighed. “Monica, don’t you know that man kills because of the material things he needs to enjoy life?”
Monica shook her head, dismayed because of her friend’s words.
Alone in her small, rented room, Monica felt subdued and helpless. She thought of Mr. Jalandoni’s offer- a beautiful house and a comfortable life for her and her family in exchange for her company.
George Jalandoni was in his sixties. Very rich and a widower with four grown-up children who now had their own families. Now, he was alone and desolate and what he needed wasn’t money but someone to talk to and laugh with. He owned the company where Monica worked as a sales clerk.
Monica couldn’t forget the day when she was summoned by Mr. Jalandoni to his office.
“Monica, “I’m offering you and your family something for the future. All I want in return is your company. You will live in my house. We will be together every day but you will have your own room. Our relationship would be plain companionship. No sex involved.”
The words shocked Monica. Most men would waste money because of that thing called S_ _, but here’s a man offering her his wealth without expecting something in return – only her company.
For several nights, Monica couldn’t sleep. She seemed in a trance as the days dragged on. Mr. Jalandoni had given her one month to decide.
She couldn’t trust the man to keep his words. She would never compromise just because of his money.
Setting aside her needs, she thought of her family and the dreams she had for them. She could imagine the things that could give her mother, her father, and her siblings' great joy. She only had to say yes to Mr. Jalandoni – and her family would enjoy life to the fullest. They would live in a beautiful house; they could have a car and fine food. And her brothers and sisters would have good jobs. They would never go hungry again.
Could she let them starve? With only her and one brother working, they found it hard making ends meet. There were times when they had to go to bed without their supper.
For hours, she kept thinking what to do. Will she do it for her loved ones? If she did, would she maintain her self-respect?
She slept through the thought and dreamed.
In the morning, she woke up more relaxed and feeling fine. And her decision was final.
George was overjoyed at the sight of Monica outside the gates. He took her hand and led her into the house. Monica was shaking and George understood.
He drew closer to her. “Are you alright my dear?” He sounded genuinely concerned.
“I’m fine,” she nodded. “Don’t worry.” She wanted to sound casual, even flippant, but couldn’t.
There was no turning back now. By entering these gates, she had entered into a decision that was irrevocable. For the sake of the family, she whispered to herself.
“Monica, I want you to feel at home here. This will be your home from now on.” His words seemed soothing and she found herself feeling more at ease, as she entered the magnificent home she had only heard of in the past.
She kept silent as he held her elbow and steered her around the house. He took her to the den, the music room, the study, the family room, the playroom, the mini-gym, the dance hall, the terrace and the dining room which looked so enormous that Monica can no longer contain herself. “This is amazing! What do you do in a house that is so big?” She asked as she inclined her head to look at him.
He smiled, shaking his head, amused at her childlike reaction.
“You see Monica, a home is where one wants to feel comfortable. It is here that we rest from a day’s hard work. No one wants to live in a disorderly, dilapidated and congested place. Every man dreams of a big comfortable place to live in. It is the reason why man works hard.”
Monica listened and nodded her head, still unable to understand why one needed so much space, not to mention the grand design of this house.
“I have made arrangements for your family to move into their new home tomorrow. You can go and visit them there if you wish to,’ he said as he pointed to her the beautiful house on the eastern side of the gardens.
“How long will my family stay there?”
“That would depend on you, Monica. But I assure you, the establishment that I will entrust them with is very profitable. If they know how to manage it, then all of you could live comfortably even without me.”
Monica turned to look at him in wonder. She hadn’t expected him to do that for her family. The only thing she knew about was the offer of a separate house for them to live in and an assurance of a job for her siblings.
“What are you trying to say?” She asked in surprise.
“I want to assure your family a comfortable life. Giving them a business to run is included in the package.”
Monica couldn’t believe what she just heard from the man who only wanted her company.
“Well, stop worrying about that now. I’m sure your family could make any business grow. It’s time for me to show you your room.”
The mention of a room jolted Monica to her present situation. She felt relieved. George had kept her promise to give her at least some privacy in his own home.
Again, he led her by the elbow. What she had expected was a simple room, set far in the back of the house. But Mr. Jalandoni was now turning the knob of a door gilded with beautiful floral carvings.
The room was an entire suite fit for a queen. She stifled a sound of extreme awe.
“This is too much, Mr. Jalandoni,” she managed to say.
“Do I need to remind you again how much I value your company? Your being here is more precious than all the material things around me.”
After a while, he said, “I’ll leave you for a while so that you can get used to your new room. If you need something, there’s an intercom by the door. You can come down later so that I could show you the gardens.” He left and Monica took a few deep breaths before sinking into a chaise lounge covered in a romantic print.
This is too much she said aloud. After a while, she went over to the bed and sat on the edge, her thoughts racing. Everything had happened so fast. It was as if she had entered a time machine that transported her to a new world.
It took her sometime before she stood up from the bed to open a nearby door. It was a walk-in closet and inside was an array of clothes for different occasions. In one side stood a series of shelves full of footwear of different styles and colors.
Slowly she closed the door and opened another. This time, it was the bathroom. Monica could only stare at the luxurious fixtures, the mosaic walls, the jars of miniature soap bars, and other things she didn’t know ever existed. She looked around her and found herself wondering if she was on another planet.
So this is it, she thought aloud. No wonder, many girls were dying to catch Mr. Jalandoni’s attention.
Would she consider herself luckier than the others? What if this man will not keep his word and use her instead of whatever intentions he fancied?
The only saving grace, for now, was her great faith in God.
“No need to worry,” he whispered to herself. Then she went out the room and went downstairs to find George.
© 2018 Felisa Daskeo